Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Photo: Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The Department of Housing and Urban Development filed charges against Facebook Thursday for violating the Fair Housing Act by encouraging, enabling and causing housing discrimination through the company’s advertising platform.

Why it matters: Facebook just reached a historic settlement with the ACLU and other advocacy groups around this same issue, so it's surprising that a settlement did not occur between HUD and the tech giant.

Be smart: According to sources familiar with talks between Facebook and HUD, the two bodies were close to settling. They believe HUD’s move could be driven by the agency’s desire to show it’s going on the offense before HUD Secretary Ben Carson heads to Capitol Hill next week for routine meetings with the House and Senate Appropriations Committees.

Details: HUD alleges that Facebook unlawfully discriminates against users by restricting who can view housing-related ads on Facebook’s platforms and across the internet.

  • It also alleges that Facebook mines extensive data about its users "and then uses those data to determine which of its users view housing-related ads based, in part, on these protected characteristics."
  • The charge also claims that Facebook groups users who have similar attributes and behaviors — unrelated to housing — via machine learning and presumes a shared interest or disinterest in housing-related advertisements.
  • HUD says this process functions "just like an advertiser who intentionally targets or excludes users based on their protected class."

How we got here: HUD filed an initial complaint against the tech giant last summer, following a series of investigative reports over the past two years about ways users can abuse Facebook's ad platform in order to discriminate against certain people.

  • That complaint alleged that it allowed advertisers to illegally discriminate in housing ads by excluding some groups from seeing the ads.
  • Facebook has acknowledged over the past year that its tools have been abused to discriminate unfairly against people.
  • Over the last year, it's removed over 5,000 ad-targeting options to prevent abusive ad targeting. Last week, Facebook said it would block racially-targeted ads for housing, employment and credit.

What they're saying: "Facebook is discriminating against people based upon who they are and where they live," said Carson. "Using a computer to limit a person’s housing choices can be just as discriminatory as slamming a door in someone’s face."

  • "We're surprised by HUD's decision, as we've been working with them to address their concerns and have taken significant steps to prevent ads discrimination," says a Facebook spokesperson. "We're disappointed by today’s developments, but we’ll continue working with civil rights experts on these issues."

Between the lines: According to a Facebook spokesperson, talks broke down when HUD "insisted on access to sensitive information — like user data — without adequate safeguards."

  • Facebook is very protective about giving up user data, even to governments that demand it.
  • HUD says "fashioning appropriate remedies and the rules of the road for today’s technology as it impacts housing are a priority for HUD."

What's next: HUD's charge will be heard by an administrative law judge unless Facebook elects to have the case heard in federal district court.  

  • According to HUD, if a judge finds after a hearing that discrimination has occurred, "he may award damages for harm caused by the discrimination."
  • "The judge may also order injunctive relief and other equitable relief, as well as payment of attorney fees. In addition, the judge may impose fines to vindicate the public interest. If the matter is decided in federal court, the judge may also award punitive damages."

Go deeper: ACLU reaches settlement with Facebook over discriminatory ads

Go deeper

22 mins ago - World

India sets new COVID world record as oxygen demand jumps seven-fold

COVID-19 patients being treated with free oxygen at a makeshift clinic in Indirapuram, Uttar Pradesh, India. Photo: Rebecca Conway/Getty Images

India has seen demand for oxygen jump "seven-fold" as the country set a new world record for daily COVID-19 cases on Thursday, per AP.

By the numbers: India's health ministry reported 412,262 new infections, taking the official tally past 21 million, and 3,980 deaths from the coronavirus in the past 24 hours. The official death toll now stands at 230,168. The actual numbers are believed to be much higher.

2 hours ago - World

U.K. sends patrol ships to British island amid fishing dispute with France

The HMS Tamar, one of the two ships deployed to Jersey. Photo: Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images

The United Kingdom's government announced Wednesday it has deployed two Royal Navy patrol vessels to the island of Jersey "as a precautionary measure," as tensions over fishing rights escalate with France.

Why it matters: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a statement the government took the action to protect Jersey against threats of "a blockade" of French fishing boats at the island, which is off the coast of northwest France.

Social media's "in-kind contribution to Biden"

Photo illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Facebook's continued suspension of Donald Trump's account extends the silencing of Joe Biden's most potent critic — and the current president's control over the national political narrative into his second 100 days.

Why it matters: Biden has been able to successfully focus on COVID-19 relief, his infrastructure plan and fielding his new administration, in part, because Trump hasn't been able to shake his social media muzzle and bray about the migration crisis or any White House misstep.