back to article Facebook job ads algorithm still discriminates on gender, LinkedIn not so much

Two years after Facebook settled five lawsuits claiming that its employment, housing, and credit ads illegally discriminate, researchers with the University of Southern California have found that the company still serves job ads unfairly, based on gender. In a paper titled "Auditing for Discrimination in Algorithms Delivering …

  1. mihares

    Is there still something immoral that the facial book is not yet doing?

    1. Imhotep Silver badge

      And continuing to do, despite breaking US Civil Rights laws, being caught, and promising not to do it again.

      Rather than a token fine - and even fines in the millions of dollars are not a deterrent for Facebook - I would love the punishment next time to be a prohibition on selling advertising.

  2. conel

    Reality versus Policy

    That Facebook show jewellery sales jobs to more women than men and cars sales jobs to more men than women is not an indication of bias.

    Being qualified for an auto sales job doesn't make you equally qualified for a jewellery sales job and vica versa.

    1. IGotOut Silver badge

      Re: Reality versus Policy

      Go back read article.

  3. codejunky Silver badge

    Eh?

    So facebook is targeting the adverts based on the data available while Linked in is ignoring data? Assuming I am reading it right the complaint seems to be fb discriminating by showing ads to those likely to want to see it?

    Or is someone smoking something a bit strong and thinking that there is no taste discrimination based on sex? And surely fb should be able to solve this little problem by setting the rabid 100+ gender people on these researchers for their discrimination of only checking male and female?

    1. jmch Silver badge

      Re: Eh?

      "facebook is targeting the adverts based on the data available"

      My understanding is that the data available is based on current biases and promotes the furthering of existing biases. Eg. Both Driver jobs should have equal distribution since the skill/experience required is the same, but the company where drivers were already mostly male got shown to mostly male audience

      1. cornetman Silver badge

        Re: Eh?

        > Eg. Both Driver jobs should have equal distribution since the skill/experience required is the same, but the company where drivers were already mostly male got shown to mostly male audience

        With respect, that they *should* have equal distribution is your personal opinion. Skill is certainly one factor, but not the only one. Potential interest in the job is another. As someone else pointed out, if the job involves mainly evening work, that might favour the interest of men particularly after dark.

        The issue is multi-faceted and really all aspects of the job should be taken into account. Remember, people advertising for jobs are interested in reached potential applicants, not satisfying the whims of a particular activist's wishes. Those two viewpoints may coincide but that is far from guaranteed.

        The fact that this is Facebook muddies the waters somewhat given their other proclivities.

      2. codejunky Silver badge

        Re: Eh?

        @jmch

        "My understanding is that the data available is based on current biases and promotes the furthering of existing biases"

        That sounds like a good model for advertising. To advertise to the people likely to be interested in it based on the real world as it is makes sense (to me at least).

        I know it might not make sense in the abstract academic on paper and I would agree. But people do have bias otherwise we wouldnt have so much choice in a free market.

    2. Imhotep Silver badge

      Re: Eh?

      The article is addressing ads that appear to target hiring based on sex. That is against the law in the US.

      Facebook was previously caught allowing clients to target/exclude specific races for real estate ads. That is also against the law.

      1. low_resolution_foxxes Bronze badge

        Re: Eh?

        Can someone tell me exactly what Facebook is alleged to have done?

        There was a job advert for a typically male role, and they indirectly showed that advert to men, based on some kind of interest they have?

        1. Imhotep Silver badge

          Re: Eh

          Is that what happened though? In the past sex and race were two of the criteria that advertisers were allowed by Facebook to specify for their target audience.

          Showing real estate ads to users based on race got them in to trouble previously because it was a clear violation of civil rights laws.

          Have they now removed those criteria? Were they used in these cases?

          That, to me, would seem to be the burning question here.

  4. cornetman Silver badge

    > ....in a ratio that differs from the expected gender distribution for the job.

    It would be interesting to see the expected gender distribution stats for the jobs in question in addition to the difference shown by Facebook so we have something to compare to.

    Regardless of how discriminatory Facebook's job ad serving is, I would have expected it to track engagement by preference, which LinkedIn possible does not.

    It would also be interesting to see how well engagement correlates to interest in the job, which you would have expected to be an important metric: you don't want to serve ads to people that are not interested. The suggestion of the research is that it does not or is not sufficiently aligned, but unless we can compare the two sets of figures, then it is difficult to form an opinion.

  5. Claptrap314 Silver badge

    Occam on line 1...

    The far, FAR more likely cause is that these "biases" are in fact the natural result of following the ROI.

    I missed seeing one myself, but apparently the presentations by the ad teams to the rest of the Googlers regularly resulted in mass triggerings.

    Buckle up, Buttercup.

  6. DS999 Silver badge

    I've never had a female deliver my pizza

    I generally only order pizza in the evening when it is dark or near dark, and I'll bet that's the case for most people and pizza delivery is mostly a nighttime activity with few or no daytime only delivery jobs available. I can see why women would be reluctant to take such a job, whereas a job delivering groceries etc. for Instacart would have plenty of daytime hours where they would feel safer.

    1. Korev Silver badge

      Re: I've never had a female deliver my pizza

      You quite often see female food delivery [bike] riders here in Switzerland

      1. the Jim bloke

        Re: I've never had a female deliver my pizza

        but Switzerland is a civilised country.

    2. FlamingDeath Silver badge

      Re: I've never had a female deliver my pizza

      Scared of the dark.... Dear oh dear

      Or is it cos all men are rapists?

      What are they scared of?

      Men are more likely to be attacked by other men

      Anyway, rant over

      Carry on being...err....men

      spare me the vctimhood

    3. IGotOut Silver badge

      Re: I've never had a female deliver my pizza

      It not about who TAKES the job, or who currently HAS the job, it about who you advertise the job to.

      It's like saying "Well most truck drivers are male, so let's exclude all women.

      1. DS999 Silver badge

        Re: I've never had a female deliver my pizza

        But that's probably how Facebook's algorithm works - if mostly men click on an ad, it probably responds by showing the ad to more men than women to increase the click through rate.

  7. sketharaman

    Snakeoil Not Research

    What if more women turned off ads than men and are hence seeing fewer ads than men? This study has no way to know that. Claiming bias on the basis of just the information that these researchers can access is a reflection of bias in the study. Besides, when there are thousands of companies that post job ads on Facebook (and LinkedIn), how will a study based on the job ads posted by just two advertisers yield statistically significant results for the entire ad platform?

    1. dgeb

      Re: Snakeoil Not Research

      Total number of ads is controlled for - they're comparing the relative frequencies of two different adverts, not asserting that they should both be 50:50 - and they aren't just looking at two advertisers, they've taken several pairs of similar jobs for different industries. Three specific pairs are described in the article, and the researchers specifically highlight that they want more data, but that gathering it is costly.

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