Picture: REUTERS/DADO RUVIC
Picture: REUTERS/DADO RUVIC

Facebook is considering changes to the way its targeted advert platform works in Europe following complaints that its system sends job postings to users based on their gender. 

The company’s ad platform showed mechanic jobs to men 96% of the time and childcare jobs to women 95% of the time, even though the listings were not deliberately targeted at a particular gender, according to a complaint from Global Witness, a nongovernmental organisation that posted the adverts. Adverts for pilot jobs went to men 75% of the time and 77% of people who were shown an advert for a psychologist position were women, the group said. 

“Our system takes into account different kinds of information to try and serve people ads they will be most interested in, and we are reviewing the findings within this report,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement. “We’ve been exploring expanding limitations on targeting options for job, housing and credit ads to other regions beyond the US and Canada, and plan to have an update in the coming weeks.”

Global Witness, which said it was submitting complaints to the Equalities and Human Rights Commission and the Information Commissioner’s Office in the UK, also found that job openings for positions at Facebook were mainly shown to men between the ages of 25 and 34 years, in an April 2019 campaign. 

Facebook’s advertising platform has come under fire for discriminatory practices before. A class-action lawsuit targeting Amazon.com and T-Mobile US, which began in 2017, said hundreds of employers in the US tailored their recruitment adverts on the social network to people in specific age groups, unfairly excluding older workers. 

In 2019, the company agreed to change its rules for advertisers to settle a string of lawsuits that accused the platform of enabling housing, credit and employment discrimination. Facebook agreed not to allow housing, employment or credit adverts to be targeted at users based on their age, gender or zip codes. 

Bloomberg News. More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com

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