Facebook’s ad-targeting demographics again facing criticism — this time, for discrimination on the basis of age. ProPublica and The New York Times released a report on Wednesday, December 20, revealing a number of employment ads on Facebook that are targeted at specific age groups, often with the exception of the older generations.
While in the previous reports of the ad-discrimination on the basis of Facebook immediately took action, the social media platform is the ground on this one. “Just with some vacancies for different age groups on services, such as Facebook or Google may not in itself discriminatory, just as it may be OK to run employment ads in magazines and on TV programme, which is aimed at younger or older people,” Rob Goldman, Facebook’s vice president of ads, said in a statement. “What matters is that marketing is broad, and inclusive, not only focusing on a certain age group.”
The report detailed a number of the ads targeted at specific age groups, some with wide age ranges, and others with smaller ranges, including a United Parcel Service ad for the age 18 and 24, State Farm by the age of 19 to 35, a Verizon ad for the users in the age from 25 to 36, and even age-targeted ads for jobs in Facebook. Facebook is the transparency tools that allow users to see why they were meant for a specific ad, are one of the methods the groups used to discover the age-based targeting.
The report says Facebook was not the only platform targeting employment ads on the basis of age. ProPublica purchased ads with a targeted age on both Google and LinkedIn. Since that ad, LinkedIn updated its advertising program so that employers can not choose a specific age group to show the ad.
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Facebook states that the age tool allows employers to recruit for all ages, including advertising for the pensioners or the limitation of views on fields that are of legitimate age — such as pilots. To place an employment ad, Facebook said, advertisers are trained on the legal requirements and are required to declare that they are complying with the law. “Used responsibly, age-based targeting for employment purposes is an accepted practice and for a good reason: it helps employers recruit and people of all ages to find work,” Goldman said.
The same day the report was released, the Communications Workers of America filed a lawsuit against Facebook claiming age discrimination for jobs. The process also includes the employers who took out these ads, numbering in the hundreds, including Amazon and T-Mobile. “In the decades as a civil rights lawyer, I’ve never seen jobs such as those explicitly aimed at young workers and exclude older workers. The law requires that equal opportunities in the advertising, recruiting and hiring,” David Lopez, of Outten & Golden said in a press release.
The current legislation, including the Age Discrimination In Employment Act’s prohibition on age discrimination for employment for people over 40 in the actual recruitment process, but Facebook seems to suggest that the age on the basis of the targeting of ads is not the same as the refusal to hire because someone of their age. According to the court documents, Facebook says that another law, the Communications Decency Act, makes the platform of the immune system, with the responsibility on the employer who took out the ad not where the ad was.
Facebook’s targeted advertising tools are a big part of the social network of the advertising, allowing companies to choose who they advertise. In many cases, ad targeting can be a good thing — targeted advertising is what makes sure that men don’t see tampon ads, pre-teens don’t see ads for X-rated movies, and such. But ads for employment and housing are covered by different laws. An earlier ProPublic report found that when users manually typed in different answers in the demographics fields, ads can be aimed in the direction of “Jew-haters,” an error about the fact that Facebook immediately apologized for and removed from the system. The company was also sued last year for alleged discrimination in housing and employment advertising by allowing advertisements targeted on the basis of ethnicity. Earlier in 2017, Facebook is strengthening its advertising guidelines against discrimination and began with the testing of an artificial intelligence program to help place controversial ads.