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Facebook Features Exclude Older People Hoping For Jobs, Class Action Lawsuit Claims

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Eric Lieberman Deputy Editor
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A union filed a lawsuit against multiple companies Tuesday, claiming Facebook’s proprietary advertising services help discriminate against those who are older and looking for a job.

Legally representing members as well as other job seekers, the Communications Workers of America are alleging that they weren’t presented with the same job openings due to Facebook’s targeted ad tools, according to Bloomberg. It specifically blames the artificial intelligence aspect, which accounts for several personal factors to hone in on a certain demographic.

“When Facebook’s own algorithm disproportionately directs ads to younger workers at the exclusion of older workers, Facebook and the advertisers who are using Facebook as an agent to send their advertisements are engaging in disparate treatment,” the group alleged in the complaint filed in a San Francisco federal court, while also referencing California’s official employment competition stipulations.

The Communications Workers of America, though, aren’t directly suing Facebook, but rather the companies it believes uses or used the tools inappropriately, including Cox Media Group, Cox Communications, T-Mobile and Amazon. Other entities named in the amended filing, but not listed as defendants, according to Bloomberg, are Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Ikea and the University of Maryland Medical System.

“It’s important that the EEOC [Equal Employment Opportunity Commission] engages in a rigorous and comprehensive investigation of Facebook, since Facebook is the largest employment agency in the history of the world,” Peter Romer-Friedman, a lawyer for the union, told Bloomberg.

Facebook’s technology, which empowers would-be marketers with the ability to specify who they want to reach, has gotten the company in hot water before. (RELATED: Facebook Removed This Small Town’s Business’s Ads For American Flags Because It Sells Guns)

Facebook announced in November of 2016 that it was going to discontinue a feature that allowed advertisers to select an audience based on ethnicity and race. A class action lawsuit also filed in California at the time accused Facebook’s tools of violating key civil rights laws, like Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as well as the Fair Housing Act.

A Facebook spokesman adamantly refuted the allegations made in that legal complaint when asked by The Daily Caller News Foundation for comment.

“The lawsuit is utterly without merit and we will defend ourselves vigorously. Multicultural marketing is a common practice in the ad industry and helps brands reach audiences with more relevant advertising,” the company representative said in 2016, even though at a later point the company ditched that particular capability. (RELATED: The Way Facebook Measures Ads Is Likely Misleading Business Partners, Perpetuating Ad Dominance)

Facebook’s huge stake in the digital ad revenue industry in general (along with Google) has also triggered the ire of several people, groups and competing businesses.

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