CBS News reports that the ACLU is claiming that Facebook engages in discrimination in job ads delivered at the behest of client companies.
On Tuesday, the ACLU and the Communication Workers of America filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission saying that Facebook lets those placing job ads target potential job applicants based on gender, including women or those who do not identify as women or men — violating federal and state anti-discrimination laws.
The complaint also lists 10 employers that are believed to have placed ads using discriminatory targeting, including Nebraska Furniture Mart and Abas USA.
When individuals sign up for a Facebook account, they are required to select a gender. Facebook then allows advertisers to exclude a certain gender from ever seeing an ad. Facebook has approximately 2 billion users and its dominance as a job-search tool means it is more like a recruitment agency than an ad service, according to the ACLU.
According to The New York Times, the lawyers involved in the case said that they supervised a group of employees who completed job searches on Facebook through their personal accounts and clicked on several different job ads. For each ad, they clicked on a standard Facebook disclosure explaining why they saw that particular ad. The disclosure for the ads were problematic because the users received them because they were men, often of a certain age, and from a certain location. For instance, an ad by Nebraska Furniture Mart that was seeking people to “assemble and prepare merchandise for delivery” was only targeting men between the ages of 18 and 50.
The complaint also states that Facebook “coordinates with the employer to develop the recruitment, marketing and/or advertising strategy to determine which people will and will not receive the ads; delivers the ads to prospective applicants based on the employer’s preferences; collects payments for these services from the employer; informs the employer of the performance of the ad campaign with numerous data analytics; and retains copies of the ads and data related to them.”
A spokesperson for Facebook says the company is reviewing the complaint and that they look forward to defending their practices. “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.”
This is not the first time the social media company has been criticized for discrimination. Concerns have been raised in the past that Facebook allows ads that discriminate against different ethnic groups, people with disabilities, older people — some critics even suggesting that the social media platform caters to hate groups. Facebook changed some of its ad systems earlier this year to prevent some discrimination based on ethnicity, race, religion, and other characteristics, but according to the ACLU, those changes didn’t include gender.