Facebook says job ads that target by age aren’t (necessarily) discriminatory

Crisis Response Hub
Emevil/123RF
Facebook’s ad-targeting demographics are once again facing criticism — this time, for discrimination based on age. ProPublica and The New York Times released a report on Wednesday, December 20, revealing a number of employment ads on Facebook that were targeted toward specific age groups, often excluding older generations.

While in previous reports of ad-based discrimination, Facebook immediately took action, the social media platform is standing its ground on this one. “Simply showing certain job ads to different age groups on services like Facebook or Google may not in itself be discriminatory — just as it can be OK to run employment ads in magazines and on TV shows targeted at younger or older people,” Rob Goldman, Facebook’s vice president of ads, said in a statement. “What matters is that marketing is broadly based and inclusive, not simply focused on a particular age group.”

The report detailed a number of ads targeted toward specific age groups, some with wide age ranges and others with smaller ranges, including a United Parcel Service ad for ages 18 to 24, State Farm for ages 19 to 35, a Verizon ad for users age 25 to 36, and even age-targeted ads for jobs at Facebook. Facebook’s transparency tools that allow users to see why they were targeted for a specific ad are one of the methods the groups used to uncover the age-based targeting.

The report says Facebook wasn’t the only platform targeting employment ads based on age, either. ProPublica bought ads with a targeted age range on both Google and LinkedIn. Since that ad, LinkedIn updated its advertising program — employers must now state that they will not discriminate based on age by checking a box before the option to choose an age range for an ad becomes available.

Facebook argues that the age tool allows employers to recruit all ages, including advertising to retirees or limiting views in fields that have legitimate age requirements — such as airline pilots. Before placing an employment ad, Facebook says, advertisers are educated on the legal requirements and are required to state that they are complying with the law. “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,” Goldman said.

The same day the report was released, the Communications Workers of America filed a lawsuit against Facebook claiming age discrimination for job ads. The lawsuit also includes the employers who took out those ads, numbering in the hundreds, including Amazon and T-Mobile. “In decades as a civil rights lawyer, I have never seen job ads like these that expressly target young workers and exclude older workers. The law requires equal opportunity in advertising, recruiting, and hiring,” David Lopez of Outten & Golden said in a press release.

Current laws, including the Age Discrimination In Employment Act, prohibit age discrimination for employment for those over 40 in the actual hiring process, but Facebook seems to be suggesting that age-based targeting for ads isn’t the same as refusing to hire someone because of their age. According to court documents, Facebook says that another law, the Communications Decency Act, makes the platform immune, with the responsibility falling on the employer that took out the ad, not where the ad ran.

Facebook’s targeted advertising tools are a big part of the social network’s advertising, allowing businesses to choose who they advertise to. In many cases, ad targeting can be a good thing — targeted advertising is what makes sure men don’t see tampon ads, pre-teens don’t see ads for X-rated movies, and the like. But ads for employment and housing fall under different laws. An earlier ProPublic report found that when users manually typed derogatory answers in the demographics fields, ads could be targeted toward “Jew-haters,” an overlooked error that Facebook immediately apologized for and removed from the system. The company was also sued last year for alleged discrimination in housing and employment ads by allowing ads targeted toward ethnicity. Earlier in 2017, Facebook strengthened its advertising guidelines against discrimination and began testing an artificial intelligence program to help spot controversial ads.

Home Theater

Surprising nobody, Vizio makes moves to fill your TV with targeted ads

Vizio wants to change the way that TV-based advertising works, partnering with nine media and ad companies to create a standard by which all smart TVs can showcase targeted ads to viewers.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix right now (March 2019)

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Social Media

Yep, it’s not just you. Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp are down for many

Facebook's family of apps has been suffering issues for much of the day. Instagram, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Facebook itself have been out of action for users around the world, with the company scrambling to sort it out.
Cars

GM Cruise to double its autonomous-car team to meet robo-taxi goal

With its eye on the launch of a robo-taxi service before the end of the year, General Motors' Cruise Automation has said it plans to double the size of its autonomous-vehicle team over the next nine months.
Social Media

Twitter wants you to help shape the future design of its app

Twitter is launching an app for testing new design features and it wants you to get involved. Those accepted into the program will have the chance to try out different conversation designs aimed at improving the user experience.
Emerging Tech

Professional drone racing is flying onto Twitter this summer

Professional drone racing is coming to Twitter for the first time this summer. Organizers hope the streaming deal with the social media platform will help the growing sport to further broaden its audience.
Social Media

Twitter takes a cue from Instagram and Snapchat with new quick-swipe camera

Twitter is giving the "what's happening" treatment to photos and video by allowing users to access the in-app camera fast enough to catch and share the moment. The new Twitter camera is now accessible with a swipe.
Computing

Make a GIF of your favorite YouTube video with these great tools

Making a GIF from a YouTube video is easier today than ever, but choosing the right tool for the job isn't always so simple. In this guide, we'll teach you how to make a GIF from a YouTube video with our two favorite online tools.
Social Media

Facebook may soon let you watch live TV with friends in Watch Party

Facebook Watch Party is designed to allow friends to watch together, even when they can't be in the same physical space. Now, that feature could be expanding to include live TV. Facebook announced a test of the feature, starting with live…
Social Media

Federal investigation digs into Facebook’s data-sharing deals

Facebook confirmed it is cooperating with a federal criminal investigation. According to a report, the company is under investigation for sharing user data with smartphone and tablet companies.
Social Media

Facebook explains its worst outage as 3 million users head to Telegram

Facebook, if you didn't already know it, suffered a bit of an issue on Wednesday, March 13. An issue that took down not only its social networking site, but also Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger. On Thursday it offered an explanation.
Gaming

Snapchat could soon let you play games in between your selfies

If a new report is accurate, Snapchat will be getting an integrated gaming platform in April. The platform will feature mobile games form third-party developers, and one publisher is already signed on.
Social Media

Twitter is testing a handy subscription feature for following threads

Twitter has recently started testing a feature that lets you subscribe to a thread so that you’ll no longer need to like a comment or post to it yourself in order to receive notifications of new contributions.
Social Media

Your Google+ public content will remain viewable on the web, if you want it to

Google's failed social network — Google+ — will soon be wiped from the internet, but there's a team of volunteers working right now to save its public content for the Internet Archive.