Facebook Ads have pinpoint-specific targeting technology, letting advertisers narrow their audience down by location, age, gender, political affiliation, and interests, which has led to some controversy. Most recently, Facebook is the subject of a lawsuit claiming the company has allowed illegally discriminatory ad campaigns to run on their platform.
A federal district court in San Francisco is currently reviewing a complaint made by 54-year old Neuhtah Opiotennione, who is seeking a class-action suit against Facebook. Opiotennione is looking to highlight the discriminatory allowances still made by the company, specifically in ads for financial services. Credit opportunities are the one exception, as the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) made exclusionary advertising on the basis of gender, age, race, religion, national origin, or marital status illegal for companies selling credit opportunities.
This law was put into place to protect historically discriminated groups who have had trouble getting approved for loans due to their demographics.
Opiotennione claims that this is still the case, regarding age and gender, as older women (Facebook defines “older” as over the age of 40) are often excluded from ads regarding financial services.
Until 1974, women were not allowed to open bank accounts or apply for credit cards in America. 1974 was also the year the ECOA was implemented. Before this, ads for loans and credit cards were targeted specifically to men, removing access to better loans for women and, more specifically, unmarried women. Older applicants continue to have trouble getting access to financial services, and often get excluded from financial advertisements.
Facebook has already received backlash for its advertising practices, forcing them to rename their “ethnic” demographics option to their “multicultural” demographics option. They eventually removed the option altogether for housing, credit, and jobs related ads. Following a different recent lawsuit, the company also removed large amounts of targeting options from financial and job opportunity advertisements, but still allows options for “people ages 24-40” and “men ages 20 and older.”
Facebook has responded to the criticism by bringing up their past changes to targeting options and emphasizing their devotion to community inclusivity. Whether they’ll change their guidelines is currently unknown.