Ben Carson, the secretary for the Department of Housing and Urban Development, recently sued Facebook for failing to show certain housing ads to all 218 million Americans who use Facebook. Rather than just prosecuting the advertisers who placed the ads, Carson wants to hold Facebook liable for discrimination in how these advertisers directed their ads to be shown.
Discrimination in housing is against the law. But why would HUD prosecute platforms — rather than the landlords and realtors who discriminated when placing their ads? That’s a legally tenuous tactic that just distracts from that actual problems of discrimination. If upheld, HUD’s prosecution of Facebook would let the actual discriminators off the hook, while penalizing an innovative American company and its users.