In the past, Facebook has been exploited to target discriminatory ads, particularly in the housing market. Now the Communications Workers of America and the ACLU allege that some employers have used the platform to discriminate against women.
The parties filed a complaint with the Federal Commission for Equal Employment Opportunities against Facebook and 10 employers alleging discrimination in hiring. Employers and employment agencies are not allowed to selectively exclude applicants on the basis of sex, age, religion and other "protected categories".
What happened? The complaint states that employers posted Facebook job postings for a variety of positions, including construction laborers, truckers, police stations, and men-only and discriminatory retailers. towards them. The parties provided examples of advertisements in the complaint that do not appear to have been circulated to female candidates as well.
Facebook's ad-targeting capabilities can target (or exclude) specific demographic groups by age, location, occupation, gender, etc. However, Facebook's terms prohibit discriminatory targeting and the company has already removed illegal advertisements when they were discovered. It is not entirely clear however how long they lasted.
Is Facebook an employment agency? Plaintiffs' counsel contend that Facebook is indeed an "employment agency" and should be responsible for discriminatory targeting. Historically, Internet publishers have relied on the Communications Decency Act to protect them against claims of liability for content created or published by platform users and third parties.
According to employment lawyers and other experts, the question of whether Facebook can be considered an "employment agency" or a recruiter under federal regulation is an open question. Beyond federal anti-discrimination laws, most states have comparable laws that could be used to introduce similar administrative complaints or to sue society.
Why is this important for marketers: In sensitive categories like recruiting, Facebook will likely need to narrow or limit advertising targeting options to avoid similar complaints in the future . It may also require heavier disclosures and assurances from merchants about their campaigns to protect against potential future claims and lawsuits.
About the author
Greg Sterling is a writer with Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog, Screenwerk on the link between digital media and consumer behavior in the real world. He is also vice president of strategy and prospects for the local research association. Follow him on Twitter or find him at Google+ .