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Property website Daft.ie ordered to block discriminatory adverts after WRC ruling

The decision follows a case taken by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC).

Workplace Relations Commission in Dublin
Workplace Relations Commission in Dublin
Image: GoogleMaps

PROPERTY WEBSITE DAFT.IE has been ordered to block discriminatory advertising from its website in a ruling by the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC). 

The WRC has ruled that Daft Media Ltd “refrain from publishing, displaying or permitting to be published or displayed on its website advertisements that indicate an intention to engage in prohibited conduct”. 

Following a case taken by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC), the WRC also directed the website to “develop a methodology to identify, monitor and block discriminatory advertising on its website”.

This methodology should be based on a list of terms and phrases provided to Daft.ie by IHREC, the WRC ruled. 

The WRC made the ruling after finding that rental adverts on the property website identified by IHREC breached the Equal Status Act on the grounds of family status, age and on the grounds of rent allowance. 

In its submission to the WRC, IHREC said it undertook a review of the website in May 2016 and identified a number of adverts it believed discriminated on housing, age and family status grounds of the Equal Status Acts. 

These adverts included terms that read “rent allowance not accepted”, “suit family or professionals only”, “would suit young professionals” and “references required”.

‘Vicarious liability’

In its response, Daft.ie maintained that it was a “mere conduit” for online content under EU e-commerce law. 

In a submission to the WRC, Daft Media Ltd said that it is an Information Society Service Provider (ISSP), not and advertiser or a publisher, as defined in the EU e-Commerce directive. It is not responsible for the content of the material which appears on its website, it argued. 

Daft Media Ltd stated that any adverts already uploaded to the site that contain terms that have been previously reported as discriminatory are diverted to a queue of pending adverts for review. 

The website also stated to the WRC that “this queue contains a list of advertisements for manual review by a staff member, prior to the advert appearing on our website”.

It stated that because it cannot prevent advertisers from editing an advert at a later date, it also operates a “notice and take down” policy.   

It also pointed out that in the event that an advert has been reported, an email is also sent to the advertiser to remind them of their legal obligations under the Equal Status Acts and should the advertiser update their advert to re-include any discriminatory content, their account will be suspended.

A “rental allowance filter”, which previously enabled property searchers to search for properties that accepted rent allowance, was removed in 2015.

In its submission, the website argued that IHREC’s claim referred to three adverts on its website and that any finding made can only be made in respect of these adverts and cannot be extended to include all discriminatory grounds.  

However, as part of its ruling, the WRC decided that Daft Media Ltd “has a vicarious liability for advertisements placed on its website by third parties where these constitute a breach of the Equal Status Act”. 

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