According to Julia Angwin and Terry Parris Jr. of ProPublica, they were able to purchase an ad in Facebook's housing categories that was targeted to all users looking for houses except for those that had an "affinity" for African-American, Asian-American or Hispanic people.
"This is horrifying," civil rights lawyer John Relman told the journalists. "This is massively illegal. This is about as blatant a violation of the federal Fair Housing Act as one can find."
The Fair Housing Act of 1968 is intended to protect buyers or renters from discrimination and prohibits, among other things, sellers or the landlords from using advertising indicating any preference or limitation based on sensitive factors such as race, religion or familial status.
When asked why "Ethnic Affinity" was included in the "Demographics" category of the ad-targeting tool, Facebook responded that it plans to move the category to a different section.