Facebook Defeats Lawsuit Over Discriminatory Financial Services Ads

Siding with Facebook, a federal judge has thrown out a lawsuit alleging that the company violated civil rights laws by allowing financial services companies to target ads to people based on age or gender.

In a ruling issued late last week, U.S. Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley ruled that even if the allegations were true, the complaint didn't spell out how Facebook caused any injury.

The ruling stems from a class-action complaint filed last year by Neuhtah Opiotennione, a 54-year-old Washington, D.C. resident who alleged that she was denied opportunities by Facebook's targeted ad practices.

“Due to Facebook’s discriminatory practices, millions of older and female Facebook users have been denied the opportunity to receive valuable advertisements about financial services opportunities that advertisers sent to younger persons and men, and to pursue those financial services opportunities within and outside of Facebook,” she alleged in a lawsuit brought last year in federal court in San Francisco.

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Facebook argued that the case should be dismissed for several reasons, including that Opiotennione's complaint didn't spell out how she had been harmed by Facebook's alleged practices.

Corley agreed with Facebook on that point.

“Plaintiff’s general grievance about being denied 'full and equal access' without alleging facts that support an inference that she was personally injured by that denial fails to demonstrate an injury,” Corley wrote.

The dismissal was “without prejudice,” meaning that Opiotennione can attempt to refashion the allegations and bring them again within 30 days.

Facebook has faced other lawsuits over its ad-targeting system. Last March -- seven months before Opiotennione challenged the company in court -- the social networking service settled a separate civil rights lawsuit by agreeing to prohibit advertisers of housing, employment or credit offers from targeting ads based on age, gender, ZIP code and ethnic affinity.

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