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Employers will no longer be able to use Facebook to show job ads only to younger candidates, the company said Tuesday, announcing it has reached a settlement in several discrimination lawsuits based on which advertisements it shows to whom. The agreement is a victory for older workers, who never might have known that technology was being used to discriminate against them.
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The social media giant was facing multiple lawsuits alleging that it was permitting advertisers on its website to direct ads only to people who fit certain characteristics, a practice known as “microtargeting.”
For example, if an employer only wanted to hire candidates under age 40, Facebook would only show that job posting to its members whose profiles showed they were in that age range. Jobseekers ages 40 and older would never know the ad existed.
The federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) protects people ages 40 and older from discrimination in employment.
“As the internet — and platforms like Facebook — play an increasing role in connecting us all to information related to economic opportunities, it’s crucial that microtargeting not be used to exclude groups that already face discrimination,” said Galen Sherwin, senior staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), one of the groups involved in the lawsuits. “We are pleased Facebook has agreed to take meaningful steps to ensure that discriminatory advertising practices are not given new life in the digital era, and we expect other tech companies to follow Facebook’s lead.”
Facebook said it will build a new section on its site for companies that want to advertise for jobs, housing and credit. In this section, companies will be prohibited from targeting ads by age, race, gender or any other legally protected characteristic. Facebook also agreed to permit the ACLU to monitor the site for three years to make sure that it fully implements the changes in the settlement. The investigative journalism website ProPublica, which was instrumental in revealing Facebook’s advertising practices, is reporting that the tech company also will pay the plaintiffs $5 million, which largely will be used to pay legal fees.