Social media giant Facebook has again landed in major trouble. Recently, Neutah Opiotennione, a 54-year resident of Washington DC, sued Facebook for allegedly denying her advertisements about financial services over the past three years because of her gender and age. The lawsuit, filed in a San Francisco court alleges that the California-headquartered company violated a state civil rights law by allowing advertisers to engage in 'discriminatory' practices. The case also lists various examples showing how the financial services advertisers targeted users by age and gender.
This is not the first instance that Facebook has drawn ire from the users for promoting such 'discriminatory' ads. In 2016, the investigative news website ProPublica reported that Facebook's platform could be employed to avoid showing ads to people based on their gender, age, economic background and ethnicity. However, in its defence, Facebook said that it would never promote or encourage others to promote any kind of discriminatory ads. In 2017, ProPublica reported flaws in Facebook's claims and stated that its platform approves all kinds of 'discriminatory' ads.
The very next year, the company was sued by various civil rights groups, including the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) for allegedly promoting discriminatory ads. To counter all the allegations, Facebook began a civil rights audit that year, i.e. 2017.
The NHFA settled the lawsuit earlier in the year on the condition that Facebook would make changes to its ad platform. In its lawsuit, they had alleged that Facebook enabled advertisers by illegal means to target housing and employment to users based on age, gender, race, colour, nationality, disability, economic and family status.
Soon after settling the lawsuit, in a statement, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg made it very clear that all advertisers must adhere to the company's non-discriminating policies. However, it has reportedly failed to do so.
Facebook has been facing tough times since the emergence of Cambridge Analytica scandal in 2016, which was a major slap on its reputation. The social media giant was accused of breaching privacy laws by allowing the now-defunct Cambridge Analytica firm to harvest data of more than 87 million people worldwide without their consent. The scandal resulted in massive public outcry, causing the company to rethink its privacy policies.
The company has also come under the scanner in the past one week over its decision to allow politicians post their campaigns, i.e. allowing them to spread lies. In its defense, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that the company would not ban political campaigning on its platform because all it cared for is 'money'.
The troubles do not stop here. Facebook-owned apps, Instagram and WhatsApp have been receiving immense flaks for the inability to safeguard individuals' privacy. With WhatsApp coming under the scanner following the Pegasus Spyware hacking scandal, Facebook would be more or less pondering how to come out of the vicious cycle.