trumpets pair_edited-1On March 27 Richard was interviewed by the Morning Dose program on the CW network concerning the Facebook lawsuit about which we blogged yesterday. You can watch the story using this link: Facebook Being Sued for Alleged Discrimination with Housing Ads. Since the interview and our last blog we’ve continued to find fascinating and disturbing ramifications of the legal theory on which National Fair Housing Alliance v Facebook case is based. For example, one way to illegally discriminate is by geography. HUD has sued cities that ghettoize subsidized housing by putting it only in traditionally minority neighborhoods. A more subtle form of the same kind of discrimination could take place using zip codes for ad placement because there is widespread residential segregation in most cities. Affluent zip codes are mostly white, poor zip codes will be disproportionately inhabited by minorities. When we took a brief fling at internet advertising a few years ago the first thing our agency offered was targeting ads by zip code, which is apparently easy to do in an automated way. We were aiming at an affluent audience, and the relevant zip codes were easily identified. We wanted affluent readers, but one effect was certainly that we mostly got white readers. If we had been advertising housing the legal theory in the Facebook case would allow a claim that the ad agency illegally facilitated discrimination by providing a filter that would, as a practical matter, make sure our advertisements were seen mostly by whites. Of course the information about demographics came from other sources, including the Census Bureau. The theory of the Facebook case would allow an argument that those sources of information are facilitating illegal discrimination based not on the information they provide, but on how it is used. Facebook is taking a lot of lumps these days, but no matter what you think of Facebook, the consequences of the Facebook litigation will reach much farther than its own advertising practices.