Facebook has been accused of breaking equality law in the way it handles job advertisements.
According to campaign group, Global Witness Facebook failed to prevent discriminatory targeting of adverts and said its algorithm was biased in choosing who would see them.
In an experiment, almost all Facebook users shown adverts for mechanics were men while ads for nursery nurses were seen almost exclusively by women. Facebook claim its system shows people ads they may be most interested in.
Global Witness submitted two ads for approval, asking Facebook not to show:
- One to women
- The other to anyone over the age of 55
Facebook approved both adverts for publication, although it did ask the organization to tick a box saying it would not discriminate against these groups. Global Witness pulled the adverts before they were published.
Facebook 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.”
Global Witness then created four job adverts, linked to real vacancies for nursery nurses, pilots, mechanics and psychologists. The group only specified that the ads should only be seen by UK adults, stating that, “ That meant that it was entirely up to Facebook’s algorithm to decide who to show the ads to and what it decided appears to us to be downright sexist.”
Of the people shown an ad for:
- mechanics, 96% were men
- nursery nurses, 95% were female
- airline pilots, 75% were men
- psychologists, 77% were women.
Global Witness asked barrister Schona Jolly QC to examine its evidence. And in a submission to the UK Equality and Human Rights Commission, she wrote: “Facebook’s system itself may, and does appear to, lead to discriminatory outcomes.” Global Witness also contacted the information commissioner about what it describes as the discriminatory practices resulting from the way Facebook processes data for job adverts.
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