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Age Discrimination Claims for Facebook's Targeted Ads

By William Vogeler, Esq. | Last updated on

If law firms are shamed for being "slick," then tech companies should be called out for their "tricks."

At least plaintiffs are complaining about it in ads posted on Facebook. They allege companies are discriminating by posting job advertisements on the social media platform that target younger workers.

Through computer tools and algorithms, older workers never even see the ads. In an age of targeted marketing, the lawsuit alleges, that is targeted discrimination.

Targeted Ads

In Communications Workers of America v. T-Mobile, Inc., the plaintiffs filed a first amended complaint in a California federal court. They say several employers routinely "eliminate older workers from receiving job ads" by directing employment ads to younger people on Facebook.

The workers' union and three individuals are suing on behalf of union members and others, and claim they have missed job opportunities because they never saw the job postings. They say employers like T-Mobile, Amazon, and others used targeting tools and algorithms to direct ads to younger job-seekers.

Ifeoma Ajuma, a Cornell University sociologist and lawyer, said targeted advertising raises potential discrimination claims that did not happen before.

"In fact, you could argue they're worse because with online systems there is no wiggle room, no accidental meetings of employers and applicants," he told the ABA Journal.

Communications Decency Act

The amended complaint names 12 companies, including Facebook, Cox Communications, and Enterprise Rent-a-Car, although not all are named as defendants. In court filings, Facebook said it is immune from liability for discriminatory ads.

The Communications Decency Act has protected internet service providers and other online publishers from liability for third-party content. However, Facebook in particular faced a well-known backlash for targeted ads.

During the last presidential election, the company acknowledged, 126 million Facebook users saw Russia-linked content in the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

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