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International NGO alleges Facebook is using discriminatory algorithms to promote job adverts

Makbool Javaid, Partner - Simons Muirhead & Burton

Global Witness has made a submission to the Equality and Human Rights Commission highlighting allegedly discriminatory algorithms used by Facebook in Great Britain to promote job adverts. Noting that the EHRC has a strategic aim relating to the application of equality law in untested or new areas, such as in respect of Artificial Intelligence (AI) or predictive technology, the NGO has requested the EHRC conduct an investigation under section 20 of the Equality Act 2010 into whether the advert targeting and delivery practices breach the EqA 2010.

An investigation carried out by Global Witness found that algorithms used by Facebook may be excluding users from viewing certain job adverts based on their gender and age. For job adverts that had not been manually targeted to any specific audience, the investigation revealed that the algorithms used by Facebook led to the following results:

  • Mechanic jobs were shown to users who were 96% male.
  • Nursery nurse jobs were shown to users who were 95% female.
  • Pilot jobs were shown to users who were 75% male.
  • Psychologist jobs were shown to users who were 77% female.

Equalities legislation is designed to try to prevent this kind of discrimination and ensure more opportunities are open to all. Global Witness has called on the UK Information Commissioner’s Office to investigate whether Facebook’s ad delivery practices breach the GDPR.

They are also calling on the government to require technology companies to make their targeting criteria transparent, to carry out and publish risk assessments on potentially discriminatory algorithms and to mitigate identified risks so that they become negligible.

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