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Strong opinions, weakly held

Craigslist and fair housing laws

Fair housing activists have filed a lawsuit against Craigslist because the site failed to filter out ads that advertise housing in a discriminatory fashion. I’m interested in this because I have sympathy for both sides. Discrimination in housing ads strikes me as a bad thing, and indeed Craigslist added a warning about posting discriminatory ads in response to complaints. The other side though is that what makes Craigslist work is that everything is automated. There’s no good way to flag discriminatory ads without human intervention, and if every ad has to be screened by a human, there’s no way that Craigslist will be able to operate at the scale that it does right now.

I thought that one possible solution might be to put a “this ad is discriminatory” button on every housing ad, enabling people to report on problem ads. However, Craigslist is already adding a listing fee in some cities to stop abuse by brokers who spam the real estate listings. What would stop people from just reporting competitors maliciously? I’ll be interested to see what additional steps Craigslist takes to address this issue.

Update: Craigslist has responded to the lawsuit. Sounds like the lawsuit is much ado about nothing.

1 Comment

  1. hey, for an update

    http://www.craigslist.org/about/fair.housing.html

    we think maybe two ads out of 100,000 might have been discriminatory

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