Could Facebook Ads Violate the Fair Housing Act?

Written by Walter Boomsma, instructor. See his blog.

Walter notes: I’ve occasionally observed that Facebook ads are a great place to find ads that do not meet the requirements of Maine License Law and Rules. Well, here’s another article (reposted courtesy of Tuesday Tactics) that raises a slightly different concern!


fair-housing-logoFacebook ads are a powerful way to generate leads, find prospective buyers and sellers, and optimize your marketing spend. There are lots of tips out there on how to maximize your ROI and craft ads.

But recently Pro Publica reported that Facebook’s ad targeting system may violate the Fair Housing Act of 1968. From the piece “Facebook Lets Advertisers Exclude Users by Race“:

“The ubiquitous social network not only allows advertisers to target users by their interests or background, it also gives advertisers the ability to exclude specific groups it calls “Ethnic Affinities.” Ads that exclude people based on race, gender and other sensitive factors are prohibited by federal law in housing and employment.”

Facebook disagrees. According to an article in Engadget:

“Facebook defended the practice, telling USA Today that “multicultural marketing is a common practice in the ad industry and helps brands reach audiences with more relevant advertising.” However, it added that “we’ve heard from groups and policy makers who are concerned about some of the ways our targeting tools could be used by advertisers. We are listening and working to better understand these concerns.”

If you use (or are considering) Facebook’s sophisticated ad targeting, you may want to keep this issue front and center in your mind. Be prudent how you use the targeting, and be aware that there’s a debate going on right now about the legality of the platform’s features.


Tuesday Tactics was developed in the Fall of 2008 and began publishing in the Summer of 2009 by Scott Levitt, owner of Oakley Signs & Graphics, to help real estate agents survive and thrive in an increasingly challenging market. In addition to Oakley Signs & Graphics, Scott is also the founder of My Real Helper, a real estate marketing content service designed to help agents market themselves and build rapport with clients. His newest company is Oakley Canvas Prints, a one-stop source for turning your photos into art you can hang on your wall.
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It’s a #New World!

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Written by Walter Boomsma, instructor. See his blog.

Every day is a new day; every day the world remakes itself in a myriad of ways–one of those truths that is both remarkable and at the same time stressful. Technology advances in leaps and bounds. Even how we view that new world changes. It seems the one thing you can be certain of is change. As a writer, I’ve always tried to stay very aware of how our language changes. An incident last week reminded me it’s tough to keep up.

A little background… as program director for Valley Grange, I get to work with third and fourth graders on an annual “Newspapers in Education” project. The short explanation is the kids design newspaper ads promoting Valley Grange. In an effort to make sure their ads contain the required information, we provide a “cheat sheet” that includes our official designation: Valley Grange #144. (The number indicates we were the one hundred forty fourth Grange to be chartered in Maine.)

The third graders had been designing and drawing intently with occasional requests for help when one called out, “Mr. Boomsma, do we have to include the hashtag?” I confess I suffered a moment or two of confusion regarding what she was talking about. (For those who don’t know, hashtags are words or phrases preceded by a hash or pound sign (#) and used to identify messages on a specific topic.) That symbol used to be the pound sign and somewhere along the way it became the number sign. But to this young lady it’s a hashtag.

I was in a meeting a while back during which a self-appointed expert took over the marketing discussion by assuring us all social media was the answer to every one of our marketing challenges. Those who disagreed were informed we “didn’t get it.” Contrast that with the person who proclaimed that there was no way she would ever have a computer in her home. I resisted the temptation to prove her wrong–she probably has several–a television and remote, maybe? I also haven’t told her she “doesn’t get it.”

Personally, I do have a love/hate relationship with social media and the talking heads assure me that I’m not an exception. There’s some data suggesting that people are becoming increasingly frustrated with Facebook. I do, however, accept the reality that it’s part of the new world order. I also believe that whether we love it or hate it, we really should be using it mindfully. To that point, I’d like to offer you some examples of “mindfulness” as applies to social media.

Do you know what (according to one survey) the biggest Facebook dislike is? Find out here! But don’t just read the biggest one, read the list. Even more importantly, ask yourself what you’re doing on Facebook? If you think you are using to build your business, are you also doing things people dislike?

At the other end of the spectrum, you’re eyes may glaze over at the detail included in this article about the seven biggest social media mistakes you may be making.  There’s even lots of information about hashtags.

Mindfulness and curiosity go hand-in-hand. After you read those two articles, why not google (a word that is a relatively recent addition to our vocabulary) “Common Social Media Mistakes.” And to be truly mindful, remember the age old wisdom not to put all your eggs in one basket. If you spend all day on Facebook, you won’t reach the woman who thinks she doesn’t have a computer in her home. The problem with marketing is it’s easy to forget markets don’t hire real estate agents and markets don’t buy things.

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