Dozens of companies have been accused of using targeted Facebook advertisements to exclude older users from job applications.
According to ProPublica, “A few weeks ago, Verizon placed an ad on Facebook to recruit applicants for a unit focused on financial planning and analysis. The ad showed a smiling, millennial-aged woman seated at a computer and promised that new hires could look forward to a rewarding career in which they would be ‘more than just a number.'”
“The promotion was set to run on the Facebook feeds of users 25 to 36 years old who lived in the nation’s capital, or had recently visited there, and had demonstrated an interest in finance,” they explained. “For a vast majority of the hundreds of millions of people who check Facebook every day, the ad did not exist.”
Verizon was just one of many companies accused of using similar practices, including Amazon, Goldman Sachs, Target, and even Facebook itself, following an investigation by ProPublica and the New York Times.
“The ability of advertisers to deliver their message to the precise audience most likely to respond is the cornerstone of Facebook’s business model. But using the system to expose job opportunities only to certain age groups has raised concerns about fairness to older workers,” the report proclaimed. “Several experts questioned whether the practice is in keeping with the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, which prohibits bias against people 40 or older in hiring or employment. Many jurisdictions make it a crime to ‘aid’ or ‘abet’ age discrimination, a provision that could apply to companies like Facebook that distribute job ads.”
One Washington employment lawyer, Debra Katz, claimed, “It’s blatantly unlawful,” however Facebook disagreed, issuing a statement that argued targeting job applications by age “is an accepted industry practice.”
“In the last year ProPublica has uncovered a number of different flaws in our advertising systems. Several of them were serious failures on our part. It’s why we apologized and took immediate action to prevent them in future,” declared Facebook Vice President Rob Goldman. “Today ProPublica has raised new concerns about companies, including our own marketing team, using Facebook to show recruitment ads to specific age groups. We have carefully reviewed their concerns — and this time we disagree.”
“First, our own advertisements. Facebook tailors our employment ads by audience. For example, we may use pictures of women or older people depending on the context. These individual ads are part of broader-based recruitment efforts designed to reach all ages and all backgrounds,” Goldman expressed. “We completely reject the allegation that these advertisements are discriminatory.”
In September, another ProPublica investigation discovered that Facebook was allowing advertisements targeted at “Jew haters” and people who had an interest in topics such as “How to burn Jews” and “History of ‘why Jews ruin the world.’”
In ProPublica’s investigation, 2,274 people fell under the “Jew hater” demographic, while other categories included “German Schutzstaffel,” “NaziParty,” and “Hitler did nothing wrong.”