civil rights

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Businesses placing job ads on Facebook can select who the listing targets based on gender, according to a charge filed Tuesday with the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission on behalf of female workers.

The claim was brought against Facebook and 10 companies, the Recorder reports. It was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, Outten & Golden, and the Communications Workers of America, according to an ACLU news release.

Employer and employment agency advertisers named in the charge include Abas USA, a software developer; Xenith, an athletics equipment manufacturer and retailer; and the police department for the city of Greensboro, North Carolina, according to the release.

Facebook earns revenue from the ads in question, the ACLU says.

“Sex-segregated job advertising has historically been used to shut women out of well-paying jobs and economic opportunities,” Galen Sherwin, senior staff attorney at the ACLU Women’s Rights Project, said in the release. “We can’t let gender-based ad targeting online give new life to a form of discrimination that should have been eradicated long ago.”

Outten & Golden and the CWA have ongoing lawsuits regarding race discrimination in job, housing and credit advertisements on targeted Facebook ads, as well as age discrimination in job ads, according to Wired.

In a statement regarding the most recent EEOC complaint, a Facebook spokesperson said discrimination is prohibited in its policies and the company has strengthened its system to prohibit misuse, the Recorder notes. In August, the social media company announced it would remove 5,000 advertising targeting options to avoid misuse, but the changes don’t limit advertising for age or sex, according to the article.

Under federal law online platforms aren’t usually liable for publishing content created by others, the ACLU release notes, but the organization argues that Facebook can be held legally responsible for creating and operating a system that allows and encourages employers to select the gender and age of people who receive job ads in their social media feeds

Also, the ACLU claims that Facebook delivers the ads based on employers’ preferences, and acts as a recruiter, by connecting employers with prospective employees.

See also:

ABAJournal.com: “Age-bias suit targets Facebook job ads displayed to younger people”