Job Seekers Settle Battle With Amazon And T-Mobile Over Age-Targeted Facebook Ads

A group of job seekers and the Communications Workers of America union have settled a dispute with Amazon and T-Mobile over age-targeted employment ads.

The union and job seekers on Wednesday told U.S. District Court Judge Beth Labson Freeman in the Northern District of California that they were withdrawing their discrimination lawsuit against the companies. Settlement terms have not been publicly disclosed.

The move ends a battle dating to 2017, when the union and a group of Facebook users alleged that Amazon, T-Mobile and other companies were violating anti-discrimination laws by using Facebook's tools to prevent older users from seeing job ads. 

The union asserted in its original complaint that it found more than 100 employers and employment agencies that exclude older workers from job ads on Facebook. Amazon allegedly restricted ads to Facebook users between 18 and 55, while T-Mobile allegedly advertised jobs to people between 18 and 54. Amazon reportedly said when the suit was filed that it had "corrected" ads that discriminate based on age.

The lawsuit was one of several discrimination cases centered on Facebook's targeting tools. Other complaints -- including one by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development -- focused on allegations that Facebook enabled discriminatory housing ads, allowed companies to discriminate when offering financial products and services.

In March of 2019, Facebook agreed to prohibit advertisers of housing, employment or credit offers from targeting ads based on age, gender, ZIP code and ethnic affinity -- often used as a proxy for race.

In October, a federal judge recently threw out a lawsuit alleging that Facebook violated civil rights laws by allowing financial services companies to target ads to people based on age or gender. In that case, U.S. Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley ruled that even if the allegations were true, the complaint didn't spell out the plaintiff was “personally injured” by the ad targeting.

But Facebook still faces similar claims in a lawsuit in state court in California.

It's not clear whether Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act protects Facebook from lawsuits over discriminatory ads posted by outside parties. That law broadly immunizes web platforms liability for activity by users. But in 2008, a federal appellate court refused to dismiss a lawsuit accusing of offering discriminatory housing ads. The court said in that case that Roommates may be responsible if it helped "develop" illegal ads.

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