Speeches and Floor Statements

Congressman David Scott Presses Facebook CEO on Discriminatory Redlining Practices

Today Congressman David Scott (GA-13) questioned CEO Mark Zuckerberg about Facebook’s digital redlining practices during the House Financial Services Committee Hearing: “An Examination of Facebook and Its Impact on the Financial Services and Housing Sectors.” Below is a transcript of Congressman Scott’s exchange with Mr. Zuckerberg.

Transcript of Congressman Scott and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s Exchange

Congressman Scott: Mr. Zuckerberg, thank you for joining us today. Back during the 1960s and 70s, Congress passed a series of laws intended to stamp out discrimination in lending and housing, and both Republicans and Democrats in Congress worked together to pass legislation like the Community Reinvestment Act, the Fair Housing Act and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act. All of these laws were designed to target and stop discrimination in the ceiling advertising of housing, and in particularly redlining. Redlining is a series of practices of cordoning off certain groups of people by race, by geographic area, and systematically refusing to lend to those communities. And we’re still suffering today from the aftershock of these practices.

Now it’s my understanding, Mr. Zuckerberg, that Facebook allows advertisers to target their messages to certain users or groups of users both directly by identifying their race, their gender, or age, but also by indirectly targeting their education, their interests, their location, and their income.

And in its investigation, HUD, our federal housing agency, found that your platform allowed advertisers to restrict certain users from viewing ads on your platform, and you have even enabled the practice of this dreaded redlining of certain communities, restricting them from housing and employment opportunities. You were charged with this by our federal agency that protects our housing and lending laws.

Mr. Zuckerberg, we in Congress have worked hard for the past 50 years to eliminate the very racial discrimination practices that your platform is guilty of. On your platform, you screen for and you prevent all sorts of criminal activities, such as sex trafficking, drug trafficking, even as you mentioned a few minutes ago, you outlawed payday lending, terrorism, and illegal drugs. Why don’t you prevent redlining, which is also illegal and criminal as well?

Mark Zuckerberg: Congressman, we do now. Our policies have always been that discrimination is not allowed. We recently entered into a settlement with civil rights groups, ACLU and others, and FHA to remove certain categories from our targeting including age, gender, and zip code.

Congressman Scott: You say to remove. You haven’t said we have removed. It’s a difference.

Mark Zuckerberg: My understanding is this is already implemented. If I’m incorrect on that, I will get back to you quickly and update you. But my understanding is that that is already in effect.

Congressman Scott: But Mr. Zuckerberg, I have here HUD’s report and it clearly says that your platform allows advertisers to restrict certain users from viewing ads on your platform, and you have even enabled the practice of redlining certain communities. What is your answer? I mean what was your response to HUD? Have you put things in practice to eliminate this?

Mark Zuckerberg: Well Congressman, I think at the beginning of the discussion with HUD and some of these groups that I just referenced, we entered into a settlement with the separate civil rights groups to create a new standard where we block that kind of targeting. And I think it’s worth noting that the standard we set is industry leading. I don’t think any other internet platforms restrict the kind of targeting that we do for these categories, but I think that doing so helps us uphold the principles around preventing discrimination. So, I’m happy and supportive and glad that we’re doing that.

Congressman Scott: Thank you Mr. Zuckerberg.