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Senator Collins voices concern about social media companies enabling age discrimination

Maine Senator Susan Collins, and one of her colleagues in the Senate, recently sent a letter to Facebook, Google, and Linkedin expressing concern about job advertisements that target only workers in certain age groups. This is the same issue that we discussed last week because there is a class action lawsuit against companies that have been posting these job advertisements.

“By targeting employment advertisements to specific age groups, certain users may be denied the ability to view job opportunities. We write today to express our concerns related to such targeting and to inquire as to the use of age-based advertising tools in hiring practices,” said Senator Collins in her letter. The letter asked the companies to provide her with certain information by January 31, 2018, which will help her to better understand the issue.

Targeting certain demographic groups with social media job advertisements is an interesting issue. Of course, a company can use this ability to target demographic groups for discriminatory reasons, seeking to exclude certain groups of people from its work force. However, some employers may want to use this same technology to target certain demographic groups that are under represented in their companies.

For instance, if a company always receives a very high percentage of job applications from men, and has a very high percentage of male employees, it may decide to launch a social media job advertising campaign that targets female social media users. Through such a campaign, the company would strategically use its job advertising dollars in a way that improves the diversity of its work force. This does not seem to be something that policy makers, like Senator Collins, would want to prevent.

After these companies provide Senator Collins with the information she has requested, it will be interesting to hear her proposals for preventing companies from using targeted social media advertisements to discriminate while at the same time allowing them to use that targeted advertising to improve diversity.