ACLU: Facebook allows gender-biased job ads on its platform

NEW YORK (AP) — Facebook is allowing job ads on its platform that exclude women, according to the American Civil liberties Union.

In a complaint filed Tuesday with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the ACLU lists 10 employers that it claims have placed ads on Facebook that violate federal and state discrimination laws. Changes Facebook made to its ads systems this year to prevent discrimination based on race, ethnicity, religion and other characteristics didn’t extend to gender, the group said.

Facebook responded quickly, saying that there is “no place for discrimination” on its platform and that it will defend its practices once it can review the complaint.

The ACLU and the Communications Workers of America labor union say the ads target potential job applicants based on gender. This includes women as well as people who do not identify as either men or women, or “non-binary” people.

The complaint was filed on behalf of three women, living in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Illinois, who allegedly were not shown ads for jobs in traditionally male-dominated fields, even though they appeared qualified for those positions. The ads, which appeared over the course of several months in 2017 and 2018, were for jobs such as tire salesman, mechanic, roofing worker and security engineer, said Galen Sherwin, senior staff attorney at the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project.

The ACLU says that the women, as well as the union’s other female and other non-male members, have “routinely been denied the opportunity” to receive job ads and recruitment on Facebook that their male counterparts received. Targeting job ads by gender is illegal under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

In one of the ads in the complaint, the City of Greensboro, North Carolina is advertising jobs at its police department. The ad shows a photo of two policemen and says the department is hiring “year round” with a starting salary of $38,222. The ad placed by the city was targeted to “men ages 25 to 35 who live or were recently near Philadelphia.” Such targeting information is available to Facebook users when they click on “why am I seeing this” on a drop-down menu on the ad.

A representative for the city of Greensboro did not immediately calls Tuesday. Other ads had a similar format and while the text of the ads shown in the complaint is neutral, the images, when they have them, include only men.

Facebook already tells advertisers that their ads must not discriminate, or encourage discrimination against people based on “personal attributes such as race, ethnicity, color, national origin, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, family status, disability, medical or genetic condition.”