Twitter and Google Ad Platforms under HUD Investigation

Facebook is not the only tech giant that is head to head with governmental scrutiny over alleged illegal ad activity. Twitter and Google joined the party over their ad platforms.

HUD is yet to make public the reasons for the investigations, but they say that they have reached out to the two companies to understand how they trade ads.

Both Google and Twitter say that they do not run discriminatory ads.
‘A person using Twitter to run ads has agreed to comply with the law and to use our services only for that which is legal,’ said a Twitter spokesperson. ‘Housing discrimination is against our rules and the law.’

A spokesman for Google says that the company does not allow targeting based on beliefs, disability, negative financial standing, ethnicity, and race.
Last week, HUD charged Facebook for violating civil rights laws by displaying discriminating ads based on gender and race.

HUD’s complaint against the tech giant has allegations that the company lets its advertisers restrict their ads from people of individual races and genders. The agency also claims that the ad delivery tool for the company discriminates even when some advertisers prefer inclusivity.

‘An advertiser could try targeting a broad audience without excluding ‘protected class groups,’ but the ad delivery system will exclude those groups based on characteristics they have displayed as they engage with ads,’ alleges the complaint.

Government officials and other industry observers have been talking about the issue for years. In 2014, the White House flagged the concern, reporting on big data.

‘Fusing different data types that are processed in real time can deliver the message you need, or the product and service in question, to the consumer before they can even know they need it,’ said the report. ‘Unfortunately, that kind of personalization will create room for subtle and even outright discrimination in opportunities, pricing, and services.’

In March, 44 watchdogs including the ACLU, Public Knowledge, and Center for Democracy & Technology asked lawmakers to include a provision for discrimination in new privacy laws. The organizations need to expect that companies expect and protect against discriminatory use of big data.

Recently, Facebook settled a civil rights lawsuit against ACLU, and other organizations by agreeing to disallow advertisers from targeting users based on ZIP code, gender, age, and ethnicity. The deal demands that Facebook pays $5 million before creating a tool to allow people all over the U.S to browse through housing ads.

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