Facebook In Hot Water Over Micro-Targeting

By Ben Hamill - April 23 2019

Class Action Lawsuit Looming Against Facebook

Facebook’s marketing filters may have come back to bite the social media giant in a very unexpected way. A prominent law firm in Montreal, IMK LLP, has filed an application to institute a class action lawsuit against Facebook for what it has said it considers to be nothing short of discriminatory behaviour. The social media platform applies certain filters to its advertisements based on the likelihood of those who view those ads of either qualifying to comply with conditions associated with the ads, or the probability of their purchasing products or services advertised by the ads.

It’s all good and well in the land of targeted marketing, but when it comes to advertising employment and housing services, it’s another ball game altogether. This is exactly the leg that the law firm has elected to stand on. According to IMK LLP, Facebook has, thanks to its selective advertising policies, managed to by default discriminate against people based on everything from age to social status.

It’s now up to the Superior Court in Quebec to make a call as to whether the firm will be permitted to institute the class action against the social media giant; an action which according to the firm, will be brought against Facebook on behalf of any Canadian individual who has ever been excluded from seeing employment or housing ads based on race, age, social status, gender, education, etc.

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In The Interest Of Many

The application, if approved, will be made on behalf of a 65 year-old legal assistant named Lyse Beaulieu. Beaulieu has apparently been seeking employment for the past 2 years and has been unable to secure a job thanks to Facebook’s filter policies having made the call that she would not have qualified for certain job vacancies in anyway, and so it would have been futile for those vacancies to appear in her news feed.

The application applies to the period running from April 11, 2016 until such time that a ruling is made either way.

Facebook Says It Shuns Discrimination

The action will seek damages in favour of Beaulieu in terms of loss of possible income, as well as an interdict against the social media giant; which interdict will, if granted successfully, prevent Facebook from discriminating against people based on age, gender, race, social status, etc.

The fact that Facebook had previously admitted that the targeted marketing practice came down to discrimination in the US, but had failed to apply the same logic to its Canadian operations, will in all likelihood, if anything, land the platform in very hot water in the event that the Court does issue the go-ahead.

Facebook claims that its modus operandi, commonly referred to as micro-targeting, isn’t at all aimed at discriminating against anyone and that the company doesn’t condone discrimination in any shape or form.