An investigation has concluded that Facebook users in the UK may be excluded from viewing job ads based on protected characteristics, such as gender and age.
Global Witness created four job ads, linked to real vacancies on the indeed.com platform, for nursery nurses, pilots, mechanics and psychologists. The group specified only the ads should be seen by UK adults, i.e. that Facebook’s algorithms would decide who to show the ads to.
Old fashioned stereotypes seem to be inherent in the algorithm given that 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.
Naomi Hirst, Head of the Digital Threats Campaign at Global Witness, said: “We first began looking at the possibility of discriminatory targeting of job ads in April 2019, when data from the Facebook Ad Library showed that only 3% of those who had viewed an advert for job openings at Facebook itself were 55 years or older, despite nearly 20% of Facebook users in the UK being in this age bracket at the time. Further investigation showed that 62% of those who were most likely to have seen the ad were male, and that it was most frequently shown to men between 25 and 34 years of age.
In her assessment of this evidence, Schona Jolly QC said, “Facebook’s system itself may, and does appear to, lead to discriminatory outcomes.” She added that “the facts as found and collated by Global Witness…give rise to a strong suspicion that Facebook has acted, and continues to act, in violation of the Equality Act 2010”.