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Vox Sentences: Facebook’s digital redlining

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Facebook accused of discrimination in advertising; UN criticizes Trump’s proclamation of Israel sovereignty over Golan Heights.

Facebook accused of enabling housing bias

Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
  • The Department of Housing and Urban Development is suing Facebook for alleged housing discrimination by allowing advertisers to use tools to choose groups to include or exclude from seeing ads — including groups based on “ethnic affinities” and gender. [The Verge / Russell Brandom]
  • That, combined with the company’s own ability to determine who can see certain ads, puts Facebook in violation of the Fair Housing Act, HUD argues. [NYT / Katie Benner, Glenn Thrush, and Mike Isaac]
  • In 2016, a ProPublica investigation revealed that Facebook allowed advertisements to be hidden or shown to users based on different characteristics — so ads for houses or jobs could, for example, be hidden from black or Hispanic users. [ProPublica / Julia Angwin and Terry Parris Jr.]
  • Last week, Facebook announced the removal of age, gender, and ZIP code targeting for housing, employment and credit ads. There will also be a new feature that enables users to see all housing ads in the US. [NPR / Brakkton Booker]
  • Facebook has paid out about $5 million in settlements over the issue. [CNN / Kaya Yurieff]
  • HUD will require that Facebook agents and employees attend Fair Housing Act Training. A Facebook spokesperson said the company was “surprised” and “disappointed” by HUD’s actions and accused the department of asking for private user data without “adequate safeguards.” [Motherboard / Caroline Haskins]
  • The complaint says that Facebook’s advertising tools let advertisers bar people in certain geographic areas from seeing ads by drawing red lines on a map — echoing the “redlining” practices that created housing segregation in the US in the mid-20th century. [Washington Post / Tracy Jan]

A UN denunciation on Golan Heights

  • President Donald Trump signed a proclamation on Monday recognizing Golan Heights as Israeli territory. The US claims the decision will help Israel boost its security and bring peace to the Middle East by keeping Syria and Iran in check. [AFP]
  • But the US faced sharp criticism from 14 UN Security Council nations, which characterized the recognition as a violation of international law. The Security Council met on Wednesday at the request of Syria, which stated in a letter that this decision is a “flagrant” violation of UN resolutions. [Al Jazeera]
  • This is just the latest issue to split the US from the rest of the Security Council, where, in the past, it was more typical for the US and European nations to form an alliance. [WSJ / Farnaz Fassihi]
  • Israel first captured Golan Heights in 1967 and then annexed it in 1981. The UN Security Council declared the move as “null and void and without international legal effect.” [Reuters / Michelle Nichols]
  • The UN charter was adopted with the intention to stop or eliminate behaviors that were destabilizing to the international system. One of them says that no state could use force or threaten “territorial integrity and political independence of other states.” [The World / The World Staff]
  • The Syrian representative who condemned this decision said: “Give Israel North Carolina — why not. It’s wonderful land.” [Middle East Eye / MEE and agencies]


  • A man in Seattle went on a shooting spree during rush hour and shot a bus driver in the chest. The driver found a way to get the passengers to safety. [CBS News]
  • Icelandic airline Wow — known largely in for its cheap international airfares — suddenly canceled flights and ceased operations, leaving passengers stranded. [CNN / Jack Guy and Gianluca Mezzofiore]
  • Spotify is testing a new premium duo subscription. It a discounted subscription for two people. It also comes with a new playlist “Duo Mix” for a shared music list. [The Verge / Jon Porter]
  • Companies like Google, Walmart, and General Motors are forming a trade association to represent firms that purchase renewable products. [NPR / Camila Domonoske]


“Using a computer to limit a person’s housing choices can be just as discriminatory as slamming a door in someone’s face.” [HUD Secretary Ben Carson, on Thursday, in a statement on Facebook’s alleged discriminatory ads]

Watch this: Why baby cages were a thing

Yes, hanging baby cages were a minor fad in the early 20th century. Why? A couple of reasons are listed in one baby cage patent, and they give us insight into the culture of the time. [YouTube / Phil Edwards]

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