Facebooked added that if used responsibly, age-based targeting is accepted practice and helps employers find the right kind of people. Goldman Sachs spokesman Andrew Williams said of his company's approach that "For some of our social-media ads, we look to get the content to the people most likely to be interested, but do not exclude anyone from our recruiting activity".
"It's blatantly unlawful", said Debra Katz, a Washington employment lawyer who represents victims of discrimination.
T-Mobile is among a handful of major tech companies named in an age-discrimination lawsuit accusing the businesses of limiting recruitment ads to specific age groups on Facebook. Over the past year, the public interest watchdog has reported on anti-Semitic targeting categories available on the platform, how real estate marketers could suppress audiences by ethnicity and politically-charged Facebook ads that were chock full of malware.
The investigation carried out by US-based non-profit organisation ProPublica and The New York Times has found that some of the biggest employers in the U.S. like Amazon, Verizon, Goldman Sachs, Target and Facebook itself put up recruitment ads that are limited to particular age groups. As the site noted, it's also possible the move puts Facebook in violation of other laws on both the state and local level which prohibit aiding or abetting age discrimination in employment. ProPublica bought job ads on Google and LinkedIn that excluded audiences older than 40 - and the ads were instantly approved.
The lawsuit comes at a moment when Facebook and other technology giants are facing pressure to mitigate the negative social consequences of content posted on their platforms, particularly the impact of targeting ads. ProPublica, a nonprofit investigative team, expressed concerns in an article Wednesday that Amazon, Verizon and Facebook itself (among other companies) were using Facebook ads to shut out older applicants.More news: YouTube seals deal with top music label amid streaming moves
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It's quite possible that the ads flagged by ProPublica are one component of a larger marketing campaign with elements targeted at all age groups.
But the company defended the practice of filtering ads by age group, noting that a candidate's age can be an important factor for employers.
The Communications Workers of America as well as several individuals filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday alleging that Amazon.com Inc., T-Mobile US Inc. and several subsidiaries of Cox Enterprises Inc. sought to discriminate by age in several job ads on Facebook Inc. To see the ads and each company's response, click on the company names below. "Just as it can be OK to run employment ads in magazines and on TV shows targeted at younger or older people".
"You're seeing this ad because Amazon Fulfillment Jobs wants to reach people ages 18 to 54 who live or were recently near Silver Spring Maryland", read a recruitment ad.
"Anyone can buy Teen Vogue and see an ad. Online, however, people outside the targeted age groups can be excluded in ways they will never learn about", the report said.