Canadians Are Accusing Facebook Of Discrimination And Plan To File A Class Action Lawsuit

Facebook's advertising services are being criticized for its audience narrowing tool.
Toronto Staff Writer
Canadians Are Accusing Facebook Of Discrimination And Plan To File A Class Action Lawsuit

Facebook is facing a possible class action lawsuit from a Montreal law firm. The firm claims that they plan to take the social media giant to court on behalf of Canadian Facebook users for reportedly facilitating discrimination through their job ads. The possible Facebook discrimination lawsuit comes after accusations that the platform is unfairly excluding users from job opportunities based on their race, age, gender, and other factors.

The lawsuit was filed this Thursday and was made on behalf of Canadians Facebook users who are allegedly being left out of employment opportunities and housing options, thanks to Facebook's "micro-targeting" features.

“The claim alleges that Facebook facilitates discrimination in 3 different ways. The first is through micro-targeting,” stated Audrey Boctor, a lawyer currently working on the case, to CTV News.

“For example, a prospective employer posting a job ad can choose to target the audience receiving the ad to people between the ages of 25-40, so people over 40 do not receive the ad.Second is in discriminatory language in the ads themselves. And third is through Facebook's own algorithm that delivers ads to subsets of users even if the ad itself was not micro-targeted by the advertiser," she continued.

Facebook currently insists that those looking to use its advertisement services create a "Custom Audience". The user does this by picking the defining human characteristics that they want to zero in on during their ad campaign. CTV points out that advertisers can also use a narrowing tool that trims down their audience to exclude certain users based on their age, sex, race, civil status, and even their social condition.

Despite the accusations, Facebook does state in its advertising policies that its advertisements are not to be used to “discriminate or encourage discrimination against people based on personal attributes such as race, ethnicity, color, national origin, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, family status, disability, medical or genetic condition.”

Facebook had previously faced a group of a similar lawsuit in the US back in March. As a result of the accusations, the social media platform agreed to pay $5 million in lawsuits and overhaul its advertising system in the country, CTV reports. 

Facebook has long come under scrutiny over its micro-targeting ad system. According to a report by The Guardian, an older advertising set-up had even allowed the social media platform to block users based on their race, which stands in direct violation of United States anti-discrimination laws.

Perhaps the most disturbing accusation in the case is that Facebook's ad system actually promotes discrimination. According to a report by CBC, the company displays ads to people using an algorithm which selects an audience based on who it thinks will be interested in the product. The algorithm selects the audience based on personal details such as the user's race or gender. This targeting supposedly happens regardless if advertisers have chosen to micro-target.

Patrick John Gilson
Toronto Staff Writer
Patrick John Gilson is a Staff Writer for Narcity Canada’s Ontario Desk focused on Ontario gas prices and is based in Toronto, Ontario.
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