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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.

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.

A ProPublica article highlighted Facebook’s tools which allowed advertisers to exclude specific groups called “ethnic affinities.” In response, three individuals who used Facebook to search for housing and/or employment filed a class action complaint the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on November 3, 2016. Facebook and 9,999 unidentified advertisers were listed as defendants. Plaintiffs alleged that the defendant advertisers were enabled by Facebook's "ethnic affinities" feature to discriminate against potential renters and employees. Plaintiffs sought to certify a class for all U.S. Facebook users that had “not seen an employment or housing-related advertisement on Facebook for the last two years” because of Facebook’s usage of “ethnic affinities” tools.

Represented by private counsel and the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, plaintiffs sued under the Fair Housing Act (42 U.S.C. §§ 3601) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S.C. § 2000e). Relief sought included declaratory relief, temporary and permanent injunctive relief, and monetary damages, both in the form of statutory damages and civil penalties. Judge Edward J. Davila was assigned to the case.

The Plaintiffs filed an amended complaint on February 13, 2017 that named only Facebook as the defendant. Plaintiffs elaborated that in offering this tool, Facebook allegedly 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." They also cited additional federal and California state laws.

Facebook moved to dismiss the case on April 3, 2017. They claimed immunity under the Communications Decency Act (47 U.S.C. § 230), as providers of an “interactive computer service” cannot be held liable for information “provided by another content provider.” Additionally, they argued plaintiffs lacked standing and failed to properly allege Facebook itself engaged in discrimination. Four days later, the court stayed discovery pending the resolution of the motion.

The parties had started mediation by May 2017. During mediation, Facebook moved to officially relate four recently filed cases on August 24, 2018. The court denied this motion on September 10, 2018. Facebook filed a proposed order containing the settlement agreement on February 12, 2019. Plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed their claims with prejudice allowing for settlement on March 19, 2019.

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 the present case, Spees v. Facebook (E.E.O.C.), National Fair Housing Alliance v. Facebook (S.D.N.Y), Communications Workers of America v. Facebook (E.E.O.C.), and Riddick v. Facebook (N.D. Cal.), all available on the Clearinghouse.

The terms of above settlements included promises by Facebook to change their advertising tools to prevent advertisers from targeting users based on protected characteristics. Facebook also promised to change how it targets audiences for advertisements without using protected classes like race and gender to generate an audience. The changes affected Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger. Facebook agreed to create a separate portal for ads in areas of housing, employment, and credit. The parties also agreed to monitor the changes for three years and to study whether the algorithm creates unintended bias.

The above settlements mooted the class certification sought by plaintiffs.

This case is ongoing to enforce the settlement as of July 19, 2021.

Micah Telegen - 03/02/2017
Virginia Weeks - 02/22/2018
Cianan Lesley - 04/05/2019
Emma Himes - 03/06/2020
Eric Gripp - 07/19/2021


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Discrimination-area
Hiring
Housing Sales/Rental
Discrimination-basis
National origin discrimination
Race discrimination
EEOC-centric
Direct Suit on Merits
General
Disparate Impact
Disparate Treatment
Housing
Racial profiling
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 Numerous people of color and Facebook users.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project
Outten & Golden
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status outcome Mooted before ruling
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 ]

Court Docket(s)
N.D. Cal.
03/19/2019
5:16-cv-6440
FH-CA-0026-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
N.D. Cal.
11/03/2016
Class Action Complaint [ECF# 1]
FH-CA-0026-0001.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Cal.
02/13/2017
First Amended Complaint [ECF# 28]
FH-CA-0026-0002.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
not recorded
03/19/2019
Summary of Settlements Between Civil Rights Advocates and Facebook
FH-CA-0026-0003.pdf | External Link | Detail
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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