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Meta and the DOJ agree on compliance goals for fairness in housing advertisements.

The internet giant must meet certain goals in order to comply with federal housing antidiscrimination laws, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced Monday. Meta and the DOJ have agreed on these goals.

According to the DOJ, Meta, formerly known as Facebook, has recruited a third party, Guidehouse, to confirm for it whether it is continuing to satisfy compliance goals.

The DOJ filed a complaint against Meta on June 1 alleging that the company's automated housing advertising system, which was based on mathematical algorithms, may have discriminated against particular populations, in violation of the Fair Housing Act. Meta and the DOJ reached a settlement on June 27. According to the complaint submitted in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, the advertising platform filtered through known user attributes, like gender and color, and decided which customers should receive specific housing ads—and which customers shouldn't.

In accordance with the terms of the settlement, Meta created a computer program to lessen racial and gender bias in Meta's housing platform and increase the equity of their distribution. The Variance Reduction System (VRS), a new program from Meta that the DOJ tested, has been shown to be effective at reducing bias and is ready for use.

The bias in the delivery of Meta's housing ads will be gradually eliminated when the VRS is eventually implemented throughout all of its advertising.

The speed and dates for the phase-in of the VRS, as well as the rate at which the bias will be reduced, have been agreed upon by the DOJ and Meta, according to the DOJ.

In a statement to the press, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Damian Williams said, "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."

According to Williams, the decision "sets a new standard for addressing discrimination through machine learning."

The DOJ stated that Guidehouse would continuously look into and test the VRS to ensure that Meta is abiding by the settlement by lessening bias in its housing marketing.

Meta is required to submit recurring compliance reports to Guidehouse and the DOJ detailing its progress toward the targets set by the parties.

In a business blog post on Monday, Meta stated regarding the VRS that "Across the industry, approaches to algorithmic fairness are still evolving, particularly as it relates to digital advertising. But we know we cannot wait for consensus to make progress in addressing important concerns about the potential for discrimination—especially when it comes to housing, employment, and credit ads, where the enduring effects of historically unequal treatment still have the tendency to shape economic opportunities."



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