September 09, 2021

Facebook gets accused of failing to prevent sexist job advertising

Facebook gets accused of failing to prevent sexist job advertising

IZA World of Labor author Ulf Rinne has researched hiring discrimination and how it can be tackled. In his article he writes that blind recruitment and the use of anonymous job applications have the potential to reduce discriminatory hiring practices which may be consciously or unconsciously done. In the case of Facebook, however, the potential hiring discrimination is occurring in a digital world as the platform’s algorithm is suspected of showing ads for traditionally male jobs predominantly to male candidates, and traditionally female roles to female candidates, thus “perpetuating and even amplifying biases already built into recruitment,” The BBC reports.

Facebook has said that the system shows people job opportunities they would be most interested in but in an experiment, almost all users shown adverts for mechanics were male and ads for nursery nurses were targeted almost exclusively at women. Thus, the social networking service company has been accused of breaking equality law due to the way it handles job adverts. According to Campaign group Global Witness this has to do with the algorithm the company uses and the fact that it is biased when it comes to selecting who would see the ads.

Global Witness experimented with adding two job ads to the platform, asking Facebook not to show one of them to women and the other one to people over the age of 55. Even though Facebook asked the organization to tick a box saying that they wouldn’t discriminate against these groups, both job opportunities were approved. “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,” Facebook said.

Naomi Hirst, who led Global Witness's investigation, said that it “is particularly shocking” that it is possible to do this on Facebook’s platform in the UK. This is also not the first time the social networking company has faced similar accusations. In 2019, there was a legal case over house-related adverts on Facebook in the US. At the time, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development alleged discrimination on the basis of ethnicity. Facebook has since agreed that it will not allow ads that discriminate in this way in the US and Canada, and is looking into extending the limits on the targeting of job, housing, and credit ads in more countries.

Read Ulf Rinne’s article Anonymous job applications and hiring discrimination.