Digital media must not be allowed to aid discrimination

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Cab companies were justifiably offended when ride-sharing businesses Lyft and Uber came on the scene, and the upstarts didn’t face the same regulations they did.

We hope you’ll indulge us for a moment as a traditional media if we feel less than sympathetic to social media for a recent Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruling that found it allowed discrimination through targeted advertising.

The EEOC has found “reasonable cause” that seven employers excluded women, older workers or both from seeing their job listings on Facebook through the use of targeted advertising, a violation of the Civil Rights Act and Age Discrimination in Employment Act.

The ruling involved some familiar businesses, cited for both age and gender discrimination: Nebraska Furniture Mart, Sandhills Publishing Co. and Renewal by Andersen.

Cited for age discrimination alone were Capital One, Edward Jones, Enterprise Holdings and DriveTime Automotive Group, according to a ProPublica report.

The rulings came in response to complaints filed by the Communications Workers of America, American Civil Liberties Union and a group of individuals represented by the law firm of Outten & Golden.

The ads allowed companies to ensure ads for jobs like truck driver, window installer and furniture assembler did not appear in the Facebook news feeds of women and people over the age of 55.

Applicants who clicked on a “why am I seeing this ad?” did learn that it was targeted to “men 18 to 50 who live near Fort Worth,” for example, according to the New York Times.

The companies can attempt to settle the charges with the EEOC or will face court proceedings.

“This ruling sends a message that employers don’t get a pass to avoid anti-discrimination laws simply by posting their ads online,” said Galen Sherwin, senior staff attorney at the ACLU Women’s Rights Project.

Targeted advertising is a useful tool for someone wanting to sell a product, allowing them to spend advertising dollars where they are most likely to result in a sale.

If a 60-year-old woman wants to become a truck driver, however, she shouldn’t be excluded from giving it a try.

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