Federal housing officials have charged Facebook with violating the Fair Housing Act “by encouraging, enabling, and causing housing discrimination through the company’s advertising platform.”

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) alleges that the social-media giant unlawfully discriminates based on race, color, national origin, religion, familial status, sex, and disability by restricting who can view housing-related ads on Facebook’s platforms and across the internet. Further, HUD claims 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.

“Facebook is discriminating against people based upon who they are and where they live,” said HUD secretary Ben Carson. “Using a computer to limit a person’s housing choices can be just as discriminatory as slamming a door in someone’s face.”

Read HUD’s seven-page charge against Facebook.

According to HUD, Facebook enabled advertisers to exclude people whom Facebook classified as parents; non-American-born; non-Christian; interested in accessibility; interested in Hispanic culture; or a wide variety of other interests that closely align with the Fair Housing Act’s protected classes. HUD also charges that Facebook enabled advertisers to exclude people based upon their neighborhood by drawing a red line around those neighborhoods on a map. Facebook also allegedly gave advertisers the option of showing ads only to men or only to women.

HUD said its charge will be heard by a U.S. administrative law judge unless any party to the charge elects to have the case heard in federal district court. If an administrative law 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.

Earlier this month, the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) and other fair housing groups settled a lawsuit with Facebook after suing the tech company in 2018. They alleged that Facebook’s advertising platform enabled landlords and real estate brokers to exclude people of color, families with children, women, people with disabilities, and others from receiving housing ads.

The groups reported settling the lawsuit with “an agreement that will set new standards across the tech industry concerning company policies that intersect with civil rights laws.” As part of the settlement, NFHA will work with Facebook to develop an in-house fair housing training program for Facebook leadership and staff. The fair housing groups will also monitor Facebook’s advertising platform on a continual basis. Furthermore, Facebook will work to support programs that expand fair housing opportunities throughout the country.