Facebook Accused of Age Discrimination in Ads Triggers Federal Lawsuit

Ageism in the Age of Facebook

Facebook has been recently accused of intentionally filtering out users over the age of 40 in their advertisements. The New York Times and ProPublica both conducted an investigation determining that this discrimination hindered older applicants from applying to companies such as Target, Amazon, Goldman Sachs and Verizon. Facebook disabled older audiences from viewing these ads potentially violating the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act which clearly prohibits employers from rejecting applicants on the basis of age alone. A federal lawsuit has been filed in San Francisco by the Communications Workers of America accusing T-Mobile, Amazon and a handful of subsidiaries of Cox Enterprises for engaging in these discriminatory practices.

ProPublica Exposes Rental Filtering

This case is but only one of many instances where Facebook has misused their ads and brought negative attention to their ethics regarding race, age and overall integrity. Just last month, ProPublica found that the social giant was still filtering rental housing ads based on ethnicity, physical ability, and family dynamic. Excluded demographics were: “African Americans, mothers of high school kids, people interested in wheelchair ramps, Jews, expats from Argentina and Spanish speakers.” Despite being warned earlier in February about these discriminatory tactics, many of these ads were authorized within minutes violating the Federal Fair Housing Act.

Anti-semitic Ads

Moreover, Facebook was found approving ads promoting anti-Semitic viewpoints in September. The social network validated and accepted ad categories such as: “Jew Hater,” “Nazi Party,” “How to Burn Jews,” and even “Ku-Klux-Klan.” After ProPublica put them on blast, they later removed these categories.

Facebook also had the book thrown at them in November after testifying that hundreds of millions of users were exposed to Russian propaganda ads. Over $100,000 were invested by Russian conglomerates to influence the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election. After being questioned by the panel for this negligence, they hired 1,000 employees to review ads based on the means of race and politics.

However, in this most recent situation Facebook is not as apologetic as it was before. Their Vice President of Advertisements, Rob Goldman said the categories were:

Used responsibly, age-based targeting for employment purposes is an accepted industry practice and for good reason: it helps employers recruit and people of all ages find work.

Facebook is Not the Only Vilain

Interestingly enough, other companies accused of these wrongdoings, such as Amazon, Northwestern Mutual and the New York City Department of Education, held no resistance to changing their ads after the discriminatory implications were presented to them.

Both Linkedin and Google have had similar allegations in the past as well. Hundreds of Google employees joined a class action lawsuit in August claiming they were discriminated against based on their age. Last year, Linkedin also was accused of overlooking profiles of older audiences through their algoprocessing that took into consideration job history and year of college graduation.

It’s fascinating to see certain companies believe that older age is somehow a detriment and would choose to remove these candidates from the equation entirely. A previous Scope Weekly blog discussed the numerous benefits of hiring applicants over the age of 50 based on the skills of innovation, work ethic, loyalty and more. Still, the proof is in the pudding and this desire for younger employees is continually pushing the line of ethical and legal understandings. We will have to wait and see how Facebook responds to the pressure of yet another hiccup and if they’ll finally change their “aditudes.”

At the time of publishing, Facebook hadn’t responded to our email requesting comments. If new information is provided, the story will be updated.

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