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ACLU is going after Facebook for permitting discriminatory ads

The American Civil Liberties Union is not happy with how Facebook permits its advertisers to structure ads for employment. In a complaint filed against the company, the ACLU claims the ads target prospective employees based on sex. Those in New York following the matter should take an interest in how the complaint is structured.

The complaint is not against the advertisers themselves. Rather, the complaint focuses on how the Facebook allows clients to present the ads. The site specifically asks advertisers whether the solicitation should target men, women or both. This targeting potentially violates federal equal employment laws, according to the complaint.

The grievance was filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the federal office charged with the responsibility of protecting people against employment discrimination. Under the complaint, the ACLU alleges that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act has been violated.

Though the complaint is one level removed from direct employer discrimination, there may be precedent in other areas of law. For example, HUD found a similar situation with housing ads on the site. The targeted ad policy by the media site was found to be in violation of federal housing laws. It was required to purge thousands of ads and take remedial action, which included disabling the targeting feature on its ad creation program.

Targeted ads have been popular on internet sites for many years, including search engines, news sites and lately with the largest social media websites. Rather than a mass media campaign, the premise is to place the solicitation with those most likely to use the product or service advertised. It can be an effective use of advertising resources. However, when employment ads use targeting practices prohibited by law, legal action may be warranted.

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