Friday, 25 September 2020

ACLU says Facebook lets companies discriminate against women and older workers

Facebook allows companies to target job advertisements to young men, effectively discriminating against women and older people, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Communications Workers of America charged in a complaint filed Tuesday with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The ACLU and CWA filed the complaint about Facebook and 10 other companies, alleging that they violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which protects against employment discrimination. The complaint was filed on behalf of three female workers, the CWA and “hundreds of thousands of female workers” represented by CWA.

The companies named in the complaint include a software developer, police department, installer of home-security systems, furniture maker, tire retailer, moving company, roofing and remodeling company and athletics equipment manufacturer. “The internet did not erase our civil rights laws,” Peter Romer-Friedman, an attorney at Outten & Golden, the firm representing the plaintiffs, said.

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A spokesman for Facebook told MarketWatch that the social network recently removed 5,000 “targeting options” to help prevent misuse by advertisers. “There is no place for discrimination on Facebook,” said Joe Osborne, a Facebook spokesman. “It’s strictly prohibited in our policies, and over the past year, we’ve strengthened our systems to further protect against misuse.”

The company said it’s reviewing the complaint and will defend its practices. Last year, Facebook introduced new prompts that remind advertisers to follow the company’s policies — and the law. The company will soon require all advertisers to consent that they will comply with the company’s anti-discrimination policies and the law, Osborne said.

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But labor union representatives allege that Facebook has facilitated targeting job ads based on gender and age. “Despite the progress we have made, stereotypes and biases clearly still influence corporate hiring strategies,” Sara Steffens, secretary-treasurer of the Communications Workers of America, said in a statement. “Shame on these employers for targeting ads based on gender.”

The EEOC complaint acknowledges that online platforms are not usually liable for publishing content created by others, but says Facebook created and operates a system “that allows and encourages employers to select the gender and age of the people who get their job ads,” acting as a recruiter “and delivering the gender- and age-based ads based on employers’ preferences.”

Earlier this year, a Pew Research Center study found that 14% of white men in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields believed their gender made it harder for them to succeed, and 10% of those respondents said they’d been the victim of reverse discrimination. That’s despite a PayScale survey that concluded white men who ask for a pay raise are more likely to get one.


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