Among the many different things Facebook does is help people find and fill jobs. Similar to other job sites, the idea is to pair seekers with roles they are well suited for.
However, one thing Facebook does that other sites do not is produce targeted advertising, which in this case means promoting certain jobs for specific people. In theory, it is a helpful tool.
But according to a proposed class action lawsuit, Facebook’s ad placement tools discriminate against a certain group of job seekers. That would not be a good thing.
These folks want jobs, too
The lawsuit was originally filed in December 2017, and it was seeking class-action status to fight for Facebook users who were 40 or older and had possibly been denied a chance to learn about open job positions.
Filed by the Communications Workers of America labor union and three workers, it said Facebook allowed companies to set age ranges when it came to who would learn of job opportunities, with T-Mobile and Amazon being among the companies involved.
Since then the lawsuit has been amended, as it now also includes Cox Communications and the Cox Media Group, IKEA and Enterprise Rent-A-Car. Those two, plus Facebook, are not named defendants in the lawsuit.
Is there much to it all?
Facebook claims that showing certain ads to specific demographics is not necessarily discriminatory. Comparing it to companies who run ads in certain publications or shows, the idea is to have the broadest reach in terms of actual, legitimate candidates.
The way they see it, age-based targeting makes sense and helps employers find the right candidates for the jobs they have posted.
However, the amended complaint argues that Facebook actually encourages advertisers to exclude some job seekers by providing age filters as well as updated data on how ads are performing among different age groups. What they are arguing, really, is that while the practice itself may be reasonable, Facebook does not have to promote it.
The lawsuit’s chances will hinge on a lot of factors, including a precedent from 1996’s Communications Decency Act that provides internet companies a bit of protection from being held responsible for publishing content placed on the site by other parties.
Yet, the U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled while that may be the case, companies do not get a pass if they contribute to the alleged illegality of what is happening. And if Facebook is promoting a way to exclude possible candidates, it could be ruled that they are contributing.
Facebook is going to provide some alerts that you will not want to ignore
As is the case with many of the new tools and features, they are really only effective if we let them be. Therefore, whenever Facebook releases a new way for us to improve our privacy, it’s very much worth looking into and taking advantage of. Be ready for these to arrive.