Lawsuit Says Companies Use Facebook To Exclude Older Workers From Jobs

Facebook defends ad targeting meant to discriminate against older workers

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Some relevant numbers were not immediately evident.

Verizon is one of dozens of the leading employers in the USA including Goldman Sachs, Facebook, Target and Amazon that placed recruitment ads for limited aged groups, says a reported released by the New York Times and ProPublica. "But using the system to expose job opportunities only to certain age groups has raised concerns about fairness to older workers", the report said on Wednesday.

Facebook said that it tailors employment ad by audience, and that this practice is not discriminatory, since it is part of a larger effort to reach all age groups.

This is the latest example of criticism practiced on Facebook called the micro-targeting.

The investigation carried out by US-based non-profit organisation ProPublica and The New York Times has found that some of the biggest employers in the United States like Amazon, Verizon, Goldman Sachs, Target and Facebook itself put up recruitment ads that are limited to particular age groups.

These revelations have surfaced during a time when unregulated power of the big tech companies has come under more scrutiny and Congress has weighed in whether it should limit immunity that it granted those tech companies back in 1996 for third party content appearing on their platforms.

In addition to employment, civil rights laws prohibit discrimination in housing, employment, lending, voting and education. In early 2017, the social media platform launched a section devoted to just job ads.

"Facebook allows advertisers to select their audience, and then Facebook finds the chosen users with the extensive data it collects about its members", the report added. Facebook, however, takes additional steps to explain to users why they are seeing an ad. The lawsuit also names "similarly situated employers and employment agencies" - including Facebook. "We have corrected those ads", Nina Lindsey, an Amazon spokeswoman told ProPublica.

The database of Facebook ads collected by ProPublica shows how often and precisely employers recruit by age.

Goldman compared the practice to running employment ads in magazines or on TV shows targeted at younger or older people. They include Verizon, Amazon, Goldman Sachs, Target and Facebook itself, among others. "We completely reject the allegation that these advertisements are discriminatory", said Goldman of Facebook. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But this obscures an important distinction. The limited age range meant that people outside of those ranges would not see the ad on Facebook. There is a bit more leeway here than with other protected classes.

Facebook Inc. has in the past been found guilty of abetting race discrimination by how it allowed its users to be targeted with advertising.

Edelstein says he understands why marketers would not want to target ads at him: "It doesn't surprise me a bit".

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