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Meta rolls out new ad delivery system following lawsuit, says Justice Dept.

Meta has rolled out new changes to how it delivers housing advertisements after agreeing to do so in June to resolve a Justice Department lawsuit. File Photo by Terry Schmitt/UPI
Meta has rolled out new changes to how it delivers housing advertisements after agreeing to do so in June to resolve a Justice Department lawsuit. File Photo by Terry Schmitt/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 9 (UPI) — Meta has built a new advertisement delivery system to prevent discriminatory housing adverting practices, the Justice Department said Monday, some seven months after the social media behemoth agreed to implement the changes.

Federal prosecutors and Meta officials announced in June that the social media company had agreed to implement changes to its housing advertisement system in order to resolve a 2019 lawsuit filed against the company.

The Justice Department had accused Meta of permitting landlords to target and deliver housing advertisements to some Facebook users while excluding others in violation of the Fair Housing Act. Specifically, federal prosecutors said the company employed algorithms to find Facebook users to advertise to based on protected characteristics, including sex and race.

The department said Meta has since built a new system, called the Variance Reduction System, that addresses these algorithm issues, and the two parties informed the court on Monday that they have reached agreement on compliance targets.

The agreement also ensures that Meta will be under court oversight and be subjected to regular compliance review until June 27, 2026, the Justice Department said.

U.S. Attorney Damian Williams for the Southern District of New York called Monday’s resolution “a new standard for addressing discrimination through machine learning.”

“We appreciate that Meta agreed to work with us toward a resolution of this matter and applaud Meta for taking the first steps towards addressing algorithmic bias,” he said in a statement. “We hope that other companies will follow Meta’s lead in addressing discrimination in their advertising platforms.”

The Justice Department vouched for the new system Monday, stating that it will “substantially reduce the variances between the eligible and actual audiences along sex and estimated race/ethnicity in the delivery of housing advertisements.”

Meta said in a statement Monday that it has launched the new system in the United States with plans to expand it later this year to employment and credit advertisements.

“Across the industry, approaches to algorithmic fairness are still evolving, particularly as it relates to digital advertising,” Roy Austin, vice president of civil rights and deputy general counsel at Meta, wrote in the statement. “But we know we cannot wait for consensus to make progress in addressing important concerns about the potential for discrimination.”

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