ACLU accuses Facebook of running job ads that women can't see

Employers Use Facebook To Target Job Ads Only For Men Alleges Complaint

Backing the complaint is the Communications Workers of America labor union, which past year filed a proposed class action lawsuit in California alleging Facebook allows discrimination against older workers by excluding them from job ads.

"While Facebook has recently taken some steps to prevent employment discrimination against people of various protected classes on its ad platform, Facebook has consciously decided not to stop itself or employers from targeting employment ads that exclude female users from receiving the ads", said the ACLU complaint.

"There is no place for discrimination on Facebook; it's strictly prohibited in our policies, and over the past year, we've strengthened our systems to further protect against misuse", the Facebook spokesperson said. "We look forward to defending our practices".

A group of job seekers has alleged that Facebook, which has come under fire for its technology allowing landlords to discriminate against African-Americans and other minority groups, helps employers exclude female candidates from recruiting efforts. Public trust in ads on Facebook is crucial for the giant social network, which makes most of its money from showing messages from marketers to its more than 2 billion users.

In March, fair housing groups filed a lawsuit in federal court in NY arguing that Facebook allowed landlords and real estate companies to illegally tailor their ads to discriminate against protected categories of people.

Shortly after, Facebook said that it would fix the problem by removing over 5,000 unspecified ad-targeting options that companies could use to discriminate against people based on factors like ethnicity or religion.

Galen Sherwin, senior staff attorney at the ACLU's Women's Rights Project, pointed out in a statement that advertising discrimination on the basis of gender "has historically been used to shut women out of well-paying jobs and economic opportunities".

"Targeting job ads by sex is unlawful under federal, state, and local civil rights laws, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964", the ACLU continued.

Facebook under fire for job ads that let companies exclude women, other employment seekers
ACLU: Facebook allowed gender-discriminating job ads

The complaint also list 10 employers that supposedly have placed discriminatory ads, including Abas USA, the City of Greensboro, North Carolina, and Nebraska Furniture Mart.

BREAKING: We've filed charges against @Facebook and 10 employers for using the platform to target their job ads - for positions in male-dominated fields - only to younger men. Instead of eliminating this behavior, the ACLU said Tuesday, Facebook has encouraged it. That complaint alleged that Facebook's ad platform could be used to unfairly discriminate people by race, religion, and other criteria.

"They have been on notice for quite some time", Sherwin said. "They should have paid closer attention".

In addition, while companies can actively choose to exclude women from seeing their job ads, a popular Facebook advertising tool called "lookalike audiences" can also lead to similar results, the ACLU says, even if it is not intended.

It lets advertisers target people who "look like" their existing customer base, but are not customers yet.

The ACLU discovered that the companies identified in the charges posted discriminatory job ads by clicking on a Facebook tool labeled "Why am I seeing this ad?"

Mundel says, more broadly, Facebook could apply more oversight to determine if employers are appropriately and legally applying targeting for specific ad purposes. "But it isn't working". To conduct the investigation, the ACLU and lawyers from the Washington law firm Outten & Golden had Facebook users indicate that they were interested in looking for a job by conducting searches on various job hunting websites and on the social network.

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