A Canadian court of appeal will allow a class action suit to be brought by social media users accusing Facebook of age, gender and race discrimination in online advertisements, the plaintiffs’ lawyer said Wednesday.
The class action could see the social media giant paying damages to thousands of residents in Canada’s Quebec province who have used the platform to search for jobs and housing since 2016, according to court documents.
In an email to AFP, lead lawyer Audrey Boctor alleged “widespread discriminatory practices” in Facebook’s targeted ads.
“Algorithmic discrimination that prevents certain groups of people, such as women and older workers, from receiving job advertisements is just a modern form of the same type of discrimination that is prohibited” in Canada, she said.
Canadian laws prohibit restrictions on who sees job ads based on age, gender, race or religion unless they are due to occupational requirements or part of special initiatives like a student jobs program.
The lawsuit was launched in 2019, but had been rejected by a lower court.
Facebook owner Meta declined to comment on the reversal, but outlined steps it has taken to “advance non-discrimination and fairness in our ads system.”
Facebook has become a multi-billion dollar advertising juggernaut with its large amounts of user data that allow companies to more precisely target certain demographics, but which have also prompted allegations of privacy infringement and discrimination.
Meta in June 2022 agreed to change its ad-targeting technology and pay $115,000 to settle US government allegations that the social media giant allowed discrimination in who saw housing advertisements.