Thursday 9 September 2021 3:45 pm

Facebook accused of gender discrimination in job adverts

Campaign groups have accused Facebook of breaking UK equality laws by allegedly allowing businesses to target job ads based on gender.

Campaign group Global Witness submitted complaints to the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and Information Commissioner, after finding that posts for jobs, traditionally associated with particular genders such as mechanics or psychologists, were “highly disproportionately” viewed by one or the other gender on the platform.

The findings by Global Witness showed that 96 per cent of the people shown an ad for mechanic vacancies were men, while 95 per cent of nursery nurse job ads were seen by women.

The investigation also found that Facebook allowed job adverts which deliberately excluded women, or those over the age of 55, from seeing them.

Global Witness said that while it was requested during the process to tick a box saying it would not discriminate against the excluded groups, there were no other checks or obstacles to placing such targeted ads.

Global Witness said the ads were pulled from Facebook before being published so that no discriminatory adverts were posted.

The NGO argued that the social media giant, which has over 40m users in the UK, failed to prevent discriminatory targeting by employers posting job ad. Instead, Global Witness said, Facebook discriminated against users through their algorithms which target ads at users and their “optimisation for ad delivery” system.

“Our system takes into account different kinds of information to try and serve people ads they will be most interested in,” a Facebook spokesperson told City A.M.

Facebook said it is reviewing the report findings, and that it has 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.”

Schona Jolly QC, who authored Global Witness’s submission to the UK Equality and Human Rights Commission said, “Facebook’s system itself may, and does appear to, lead to discriminatory outcomes.”

The evidence gathered by Global witness, she said, “give rise to a strong suspicion that Facebook has acted, and continues to act, in violation of the Equality Act 2010”.

After a legal case was brought by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development in 2019 over alleged discrimination on the basis of ethnicity in house ads on the platform, Facebook now does not allow discriminatory ads in the US and Canada – but not in other regions including the UK.