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Facebook Job Ads That Let Employers Exclude Women Are Clear Civil Rights Violation, Says ACLU

"We can't let gender-based ad targeting online give new life to a form of discrimination that should have been eradicated long ago."

"Despite the progress we have made, stereotypes and biases clearly still influence corporate hiring strategies," Sara Steffens, secretary-treasurer of the CWA, concluded in a statement on Tuesday. (Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

"Facebook is violating federal civil rights law. Period."

So declared the ACLU on Tuesday after announcing it has filed charges against the social media giant and ten other employers for illegally "excluding all women and non-binary" Facebook users from job advertisements.

"Shame on these employers for targeting ads based on gender, and shame on Facebook for facilitating this practice."
—Sara Steffens, Communications Workers of America

Submitted on behalf of three female workers, the Communications Workers of America (CWA), and the hundreds of thousands of female workers CWA represents, the ACLU's charges "allege that Facebook delivers job ads selectively based on age and sex categories that employers expressly choose, and that Facebook earns revenue from placing job ads that exclude women and older workers from receiving the ads."

"Targeting job ads by sex is unlawful under federal, state, and local civil rights laws, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964," the ACLU continued.

Galen Sherwin, senior staff attorney at the ACLU's Women's Rights Project, pointed out in a statement that advertising discrimination on the basis of gender "has historically been used to shut women out of well-paying jobs and economic opportunities."

"We can't let gender-based ad targeting online give new life to a form of discrimination that should have been eradicated long ago," Sherwin said.

While Facebook proclaimed in response to the ACLU's charges that discrimination is "strictly prohibited in our policies," the social media giant has long been accused of letting advertisers exclude specific racial, religious, and ethnic groups from their ads.

"Imagine if, during the Jim Crow era, a newspaper offered advertisers the option of placing ads only in copies that went to white readers," ProPublica noted in a 2016 investigation of Facebook's practices. "That’s basically what Facebook is doing nowadays."

Though Facebook has made a number of policy changes ostensibly geared toward putting a stop to such rampant and harmful discrimination, critics have argued that the changes didn't go nearly far enough.

According to the ACLU's charges, Facebook's discriminatory practices are alive and well.

"Despite the progress we have made, stereotypes and biases clearly still influence corporate hiring strategies," Sara Steffens, secretary-treasurer of the CWA, concluded in a statement on Tuesday. "Shame on these employers for targeting ads based on gender, and shame on Facebook for facilitating this practice."

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