University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Mobley v. Facebook (Onuoha v. Facebook) FH-CA-0026
Docket / Court 5:16-cv-06440 ( N.D. Cal. )
State/Territory California
Case Type(s) Equal Employment
Fair Housing/Lending/Insurance
Public Accomm./Contracting
Attorney Organization ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project
Outten & Golden
Case Summary
Onuoha v. Facebook (also known as Mobley v. Facebook) was filed on behalf of people of color challenging race and national origin discrimination in employment, housing, and credit ads on Facebook.

After a ... read more >
Onuoha v. Facebook (also known as Mobley v. Facebook) was filed on behalf of people of color challenging race and national origin discrimination in employment, housing, and credit ads on Facebook.

After a ProPublica article highlighted that Facebook allows advertisers to exclude specific groups it calls “Ethnic Affinities,” three individuals who used Facebook to search for housing and/or employment filed this class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California against Facebook and 9,999 unidentified advertisers on November 3, 2016. The plaintiffs alleged that the defendant advertisers had used Facebook's "ethnic affinities" feature to discriminate against potential renters and employees on the basis of their background, and that Facebook allowed them to do so.

Represented by Outten & Golden LLP, Aqua Terra Aeris Law Group, and the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, the plaintiffs sued Facebook under the Fair Housing Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The plaintiffs asked the court for certification as a class, declaratory relief, temporary and permanent injunctive relief, and monetary damages, both in the form of statutory damages and civil penalties.

On February 13, 2017, the Plaintiffs filed an amended complaint, naming only Facebook as a Defendant. It added allegations under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, 15 U.S.C. §1691, (“ECOA”), the Civil Rights Act of 1866, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981-82 (“Section 1981” and “Section 1982”), the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, Cal. Gov. Code § 12900, (“FEHA”), the California Unfair Competition Law, Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 17200, (“UCL”), and the California Unruh Civil Rights Act, Cal. Civil Code § 51(b).

In the amended complaint, the plaintiffs alleged that Facebook provided businesses with tools that "enable and encourage" discrimination by allowing for the exclusion of "African Americans, Latinos, and Asian Americans - but not white Americans - from receiving advertisements" about employment, housing, and credit opportunities. The plaintiffs further alleged that, in offering this tool, Facebook engaged in a pattern or practice of "providing racially discriminatory marketing, recruitment, sourcing, advertising, branding, information, and/or hiring services for and on behalf of employers, housing providers, and creditors in violation of federal and state civil rights laws."

Facebook moved to dismiss the case on Apr. 3, 2017. Facebook alleged that they were immune under the Communications Decency Act, that the plaintiffs did not have standing, and that the plaintiffs failed to allege that Facebook itself engaged in discrimination. Four days later, the court stayed discovery pending the resolution of the motion.

The parties then began mediation. During the mediation, four related cases were filed. On August 24, 2018, Facebook moved to relate the cases. The court denied this motion on September 10, 2018. On February 12, 2019, Facebook filed a proposed order containing the settlement agreement. On March 19, 2019, the plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed their claims with prejudice allowing for settlement.

Facebook reached settlements in three civil rights cases and two complaints before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission over ad discrimination on its platform. The settlement included Mobley v. Facebook (N.D. Cal.)), Spees v. Facebook (EEOC) , National Fair Housing Alliance v. Facebook (S.D.N.Y), Communications Workers of America v. Facebook (EEOC), and Riddick v. Facebook (N.D. Cal.), all available on the Clearinghouse. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg commented on the settlement in a blog post: “There is a long history of discrimination in the areas of housing, employment, and credit, and this harmful behavior should not happen through Facebook ads…We can do better.” Sandburg attributed the civil rights audit in Facebook’s decision to settle.

The terms of the settlement included promises by Facebook to make significant changes to their advertising tools to curb the availability of advertisers to target users based on protected characteristics. The changes will affect Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger. Facebook agreed to create a separate portal for ads in areas of housing, employment and credit. The parties agreed to monitor the changes for three years and to study the potential that the algorithm creates unintended bias. Finally, Facebook promised to change how it targets audiences for advertisements without using protected classes like race and gender to generate an audience.

As of March 2020, the settlement was being enforced.

Micah Telegen - 03/02/2017
Virginia Weeks - 02/22/2018
Cianan Lesley - 04/05/2019
Emma Himes - 03/06/2020


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Content of Injunction
Comply with advertising/recruiting requirements
Discrimination-area
Hiring
Housing Sales/Rental
Discrimination-basis
National origin discrimination
Race discrimination
EEOC-centric
Direct Suit on Merits
General
Classification / placement
Disparate Impact
Disparate Treatment
Housing
Pattern or Practice
Website
National Origin/Ethnicity
Hispanic
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Race
Asian/Pacific Islander
Black
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1981
42 U.S.C. § 1982
Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA), 15 U.S.C. § 1691
Fair Housing Act/Fair Housing Amendments Act (FHAA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601 et seq.
State Anti-Discrimination Law
State law
Title VII (including PDA), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e
Defendant(s) Facebook, Inc.
Plaintiff Description People of color alleging discrimination by Facebook's advertising tools
Indexed Lawyer Organizations ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project
Outten & Golden
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Moot
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Private Settlement Agreement
Order Duration 2019 - 2021
Filed 11/03/2016
Case Ongoing Yes
Case Listing PA-NY-0004 : National Fair Housing Alliance et al. v. Facebook (S.D.N.Y.)
PA-CA-0004 : Riddick v. Facebook (N.D. Cal.)
EE-DC-0080 : Communications Workers of America v. Facebook (No Court)
EE-DC-0079 : Spees v. Facebook (No Court)
Additional Resources
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  See this case at CourtListener.com (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
  SUMMARY OF SETTLEMENTS BETWEEN CIVIL RIGHTS ADVOCATES AND FACEBOOK
ACLU
Date: May 2019
By: ACLU
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  The Origins of Fair Lending Litigation
Date: Dec. 4, 2008
By: Andrew Nash (Washington University in St. Louis Law Student)
[ Detail ] [ PDF ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
5:16-cv-6440 (N.D. Cal.)
FH-CA-0026-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/19/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Class Action Complaint [ECF# 1]
FH-CA-0026-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/03/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
First Amended Complaint [ECF# 28]
FH-CA-0026-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/13/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Summary of Settlements Between Civil Rights Advocates and Facebook
FH-CA-0026-0003.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 03/19/2019
Source: ACLU
show all people docs
Judges Davila, Edward John (N.D. Cal.) show/hide docs
FH-CA-0026-9000
van Keulen, Susan Court not on record [Magistrate] show/hide docs
FH-CA-0026-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Eiland, Katrina L. (California) show/hide docs
FH-CA-0026-9000
Flanders, Jason Robert (California) show/hide docs
FH-CA-0026-0001 | FH-CA-0026-0002 | FH-CA-0026-9000
Hoffman, Sarah Margaret Keast (California) show/hide docs
FH-CA-0026-0002 | FH-CA-0026-9000
Klein, Adam T. (New York) show/hide docs
FH-CA-0026-0002 | FH-CA-0026-9000
Lopez, P. David (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
FH-CA-0026-0002 | FH-CA-0026-9000
Most, William Brock (California) show/hide docs
FH-CA-0026-0001 | FH-CA-0026-0002 | FH-CA-0026-9000
Romer-Friedman, Peter (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
FH-CA-0026-9000
Sagafi, Jahan C (California) show/hide docs
FH-CA-0026-0002 | FH-CA-0026-9000
Sun, Relic (California) show/hide docs
FH-CA-0026-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Kim, Elizabeth Ann (California) show/hide docs
FH-CA-0026-9000
Patashnik, Joshua (California) show/hide docs
FH-CA-0026-9000
Ring, Rosemarie T (California) show/hide docs
FH-CA-0026-9000
Other Lawyers Persyn, Mary Kelly (California) show/hide docs
FH-CA-0026-9000
Winslow, Sara (California) show/hide docs
FH-CA-0026-9000

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