Age Restricted Targeting’s Happening On the Facebook Platform Discriminating the Companies Policy

Facebook recently got stuck in a law suit due to a case because The Mark Up found examples of four different companies targeting ads for financial services to restricted age groups which is a practice that violates Facebook’s own laws against anti-discrimination policies and in some cases may even violate federal or state civil rights laws.

Among the four companies Mark Up found, two were companies were identified in November of 2019 brought by civil rights groups against Facebook for age-restricting financial ads which were Chime and Aspiration.

Aspiration had posted an ad on the Facebook platform which said "Get the credit card that plants a tree with every purchase", and the Ad was visible to all genders the only restriction being it should not be displayed to the Facebook audience under the age of 25.

One more company whose ad was visible to Mark Up was HomeTap which is a service providing cash in exchange for shares in home equity. Home tap was restricted to the audience above the age of 35 no matter what ever the gender is.

However, back in November 2019 when Chime and Aspiration was brought by civil rights group these two companies were not the defendants in their cases and the case was dismissed without any prejudice.

Along with this other law suits were also filed in other regions.

Though a few months prior to Chime and Aspiration were caught on displaying age restricted ads which violated Facebook policies, Facebook in March 2019, after a separate set of legal actions agreed to a settlement with civil rights groups in which it accepted to prohibit advertisers from targeting ads for housing, employment, and credit opportunities by age, race, national origin, or gender but still a few months later it was caught when Chime and Aspiration displayed their age restricted ads.

But when the case in March 2019 was happening, on this the company said that it wasn’t involved in any wrongdoings and consistently argued in court that it is not liable for the choices advertisers make on its platform.

Galen Sherwin, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project was the attorney for the 2019 settlement backed up Facebook and said that what Mark Up had found did not violate Facebook’s policies while the Facebook’s vice president for content policy, Monika Bickert said that Facebook has certain policies where it allows age restricted ads though financial services advertisements, or housing advertisements were not included in that list.

Confusion arose when Facebook said that they do not support age restriction on Housing and Financial service advertisements and the companies who were displaying ads said they had no idea it was happening.

Because though Chime, Home tap and Aspirations all were caught in a lawsuit along with Facebook for displaying age restricted ads, some claim that they had no idea how they by passed this filter of Facebook where Chime declined to comment for this story. Aspiration did not respond to The Markup’s request for comment and Home tap said it was unaware of its ads being targeted by age until The Markup reached out for comment and said it would be reviewing all its ads.

However, once this case in March was settled down a week after that Facebook’s current ad-targeting anti-discrimination policy, the Department of Housing and Urban Development sued Facebook claiming that the company had yet again violated their rules when the Fair Housing Act over targeted ads based on race and gender but a few months later researchers found that Facebook algorithm will categorize ads itself based on gender and age depending on which it thinks which age group or gender will be more interested in.

Hence it was found out that it wasn’t the fault of the companies that were being claimed to have run age restricted ads on Facebook but it happened because of the way the algorithm is built.

Photo: Stephen Lam / Reuters
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