back to article Social network smacks back: Accusers say it helps recruiters target age-groups in job ads

Public interest publisher ProPublica has once again accused Facebook of misbehaviour, but this time Mark Zuckerberg's ad-farm is pushing back. ProPublica previously rattled The Social Network by demonstrating how advertisers were targeting “Jew-haters” in their Facebook ad profiling. That led to a rare bout of Zuckerbergian …

  1. Warm Braw Silver badge

    "targeting for employment purposes is an accepted industry practice"

    There is a difference between putting advertisements into different media - to ensure you cover a broad spectrum of potential recruits - and specifically limiting the target of your advertisements in a single medium, thus ensuring you reach a narrow spectrum of potential recruits.

    Just as there is a difference between plain truth and sophistry.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "targeting for employment purposes is an accepted industry practice"

      What would be the legitimate purpose of saying putting a job ad limited on Facebook for 25-40 year old year olds with a PhD, for example? There aren't many 24 year old PhDs, but there are a lot of 41 year old and older PhDs, but Facebook doesn't prevent you from posting such an ad. The reasons a company might want to hire younger people are obvious.

      Does it become OK if they also advertise in a newspaper, claiming that mostly older people get newspapers so that's how they're hitting the 40+ market? Even if they spend $10,000 with Facebook for statewide recruitment, versus a single classified ad in the state's largest paper for $100?

      Though I gotta say - you can advertise jobs on Facebook? I had no idea...I've never seen a want ad on Facebook. Am I just lucky?

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is some age targeting appropriate?

    No point showing job ads to 12 year olds?

    Maybe 16+ for jobs? No upper limit obviously these days, working 'til we drop :-(

    Or should we argue no ads at all for non-adults?

    1. Kevin Johnston Silver badge

      Re: Is some age targeting appropriate?

      Why should the kids get away with no adverts...make them suffer like us grumpy old gits

      1. Crisp

        Re: Why should the kids get away with no adverts

        Because their brains haven't fully developed and they are less likely to have the kind of bullshit filter you'd expect in a reasonable adult.

        1. sloshnmosh

          Re: Why should the kids get away with no adverts

          "Because their brains haven't fully developed and they are less likely to have the kind of bullshit filter you'd expect in a reasonable adult."

          I beg to differ...

          Judging by the massive amount of "bullshit" being shared by adults on Facebook.

        2. Teiwaz Silver badge

          Re: Why should the kids get away with no adverts

          Because their brains haven't fully developed and they are less likely to have the kind of bullshit filter you'd expect in a reasonable adult.

          There's some thought that overly sterilising a childs early environment reduces immune system development.

          You want children to develop no immunity or tolerance to the dirty world of advertising.

          You don't just acquire a bullshit filter with wisdom teeth, it's hardened brain matter acquire by constant exposure to impurities, much like callouses on the hands of artisans.

        3. Captain DaFt

          Re: Why should the kids get away with no adverts

          Because their brains haven't fully developed and they are less likely to have the kind of bullshit filter you'd expect in a reasonable adult.

          Hold on a minute, How're they supposed to develop a BS filter if they're never exposed to BS? One isn't just automatically assigned to you when you come of age.*

          Hit'em with BS, early and often, so by the time they're adults (or sooner) they'll be wary of it! Otherwise, you'll have adults hitting the streets with no way to detect it!

          *If they are, I never got mine! Had to build one meself, I did! Out of cynicism, mistrust, betrayal, and gaffer tape.

      2. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Is some age targeting appropriate?

        Children (under 16) often are not allowed by law to take many jobs. Some jobs require employees to be over 18 to adhere to employment laws. Some jobs that require employees be over 21 or 25 have that requirement for insurance reasons rather than by law, but that's easy to put in the ad text and is not considered discrimination.

    2. tiggity Silver badge

      Re: Is some age targeting appropriate?

      Given the gov desire to get rid of EU workers rights when we Brexit, & current desire to amke uni education for the wealthy only, then 12 year olds working in sweat shops is probably already a nascent idea in a few politicians

  3. disgruntled yank Silver badge

    age discrimination

    My impression that is that about 10 years ago, being on Facebook implied that you were under twenty-five. Now, using Facebook seems to imply that you are over forty.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: age discrimination

      If being on Facebook implies that you are over 40, what does not and never have been on it imply?

      I'd like to know where I stand, sit, lie...

      My standard reply when asked why I'm not on FB or Twitter or whateveristhelatesthipapp is

      "Why? Will the world stop if I don't sign up? Besides, I've got a load of paint that needs watching dry."

    2. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: age discrimination

      "Now, using Facebook seems to imply that you are over forty."

      And not very bright.

      1. kiwimuso

        Re: age discrimination

        "And not very bright."

        You're making the mistake of conflating "being on Facebook" as actually "using it".

        I made the mistake of signing on many years ago, but I rarely use it, but do occasionally get notifications of some of my rellie's doings and current whereabouts. Most of the time I get notified of what they had for breakfast. Delete!!! And they seem happy to post photos of their young children all over the Interwebz via Facebook, and no doubt other "social media", of which, mostly, I have no idea about, and definitely no desire to join.

        el Reg is sufficient to keep up with the wider world of tech to which I once belonged. I have even managed to persuade viewers of my LinkedIn account that I am now retired, and have no need to be approached for my "ideal job opportunity".

  4. AegisPrime

    This whole 'Safe Harbor' thing needs to die in a fire.

    The original intent was good and whilst it offers blanket protection to the most egregious offenders such as Facebook and Google, it also protects blogging platforms like WordPress and even internet forums.

    But the sheer volume of bullshit going on with Facebook is irresponsible. Perhaps 'Safe Harbor' should be something that can be won and lost by responsible moderation?

    Leaving everything to algorithms allows both Google and Facebook to hire bugger-all staff to police their content and thus allows them to grow exponentially into these monopolistic monsters (if they had to pay for an army of moderators, Facebook's current business model would be unsustainable).

    I'm not in favour of censorship but Safe Harbor clearly isn't working the way it was originally intended.

    1. Duncan Macdonald Silver badge

      Without Safe Harbor - then what

      Without "Safe Harbor" or its equivalent, almost all social media would be impossible. Not just the giants like youtube and facebook but smaller sites such as the register forums would not dare operate due to the chance of being sued out of existence.

      As Youtube has over 300 hours of video being uploaded every minute, it is unreasonable to expect that all illegal content be detected and removed immediately. Its processing algorithms are good and remove much but inevitably some gets through the automatic filters and is only removed when a complaint is made. (To have a human watch each of the Youtube videos for illegal content would require a full time staff of over 100,000 - and how many of them would still be sane after watching their 1000th cat video!!! ).

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Discrimination based on age, gender, race, ethnicity, language, even culture a good thing.

    In Canada discrimination in hiring is a requirement of our Employment Equity laws.

    IMO the most obvious examples are jobs open to Indigenous people people only but anyone looking for work knows to target those business that might actually hire them. An "Indocanadian" business saying they are looking for "Employment groups: Indigenous people, Newcomers to Canada Youth" (quote from todays advertisement) are trying to make it clear that those from other groups need not apply. In that case a look at the shop floor and the over-representation of certain groups would make it clear to those from other groups.

    After a while the jobless learn where to direct their efforts. (BTW: less than a million Canadians are Indigenous and only a few are looking for work outside of certain areas, so it is always safe to target them even if someone from another group is the only real target)

    As a result, in Canada, it is a very valid point that surveillance, monitoring, and tracking of individuals online is a good thing because it enables targeted discrimination in job ads and hiring. It also helps those Canadians looking for work and being discriminated against from having to face that reality with every other email. Even more so after EI runs out because they don't live in a certain part of Canada.

    and yes I have been directly involved in hiring for a major Canadian company, that might be evident to those familiar with our programs but I'll mention it because I know there will be Canadians claiming there is no such discrimination in Canada, and some will believe that.

  6. MachDiamond Silver badge

    Big Data

    With so much data being gathered and stored on everybody, it's not going to be unusual to find job ads being targeted even more narrowly than ever before and more violations of anti-discrimination laws. A company looking for a field service technician to repair MRI machines might soon (if not now) be able to put an ad on FB that is only seen by people working at competing service firms. I already know that in the case of medical equipment there is a lot of poaching of people back and forth rather than a company spending the time to train up their own people. The same could be done for other industries looking to steal talent from their rivals. It has been and still is a practice of some companies to place want ads in trade magazines written specifically for attaching only a couple of people.

  7. ecofeco Silver badge

    Gee, too bad for Facebook

    I have no sympathy for them. Anyone dumb enough to create a complex system without adequate controls is irresponsible and deserves nothing.

  8. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    not sympathetic

    not sympathetic to facebook. Safe harbor is important. But... If they have it set up so job ads can be posted with age as a filter (other than maybe "over 18") when that is specifically illegal, then I'm not sure just trying to shift liability onto posters is going to fly.

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