Facebook and Google let advertisers target the audience they want to reach, that much is known. Less known is that both platforms perform another round of targeting, irrespective of the advertiser's wishes.
A team of journalists bought ads for job listings for several occupations in France, Germany, Poland, Switzerland and Spain. In all countries, Facebook showed their ads for jobs of child care workers almost exclusively to women, while ads for jobs of truck drivers were shown almost exclusively to men (the effect was visible but possibly smaller on Google).
This experiment replicates findings from the US, where researchers showed a similar "optimization" based on race, which could also happen in Europe. Advertisers who rely on such systems could run afoul of Europe's anti-discrimination legislation. Google did not answer the team's requests for comments but did, after they sent their questions, disable their advertiser account. Facebook did not answer their requests for comments but did, possibly in an attempt to intimidate, ask for the names of the journalists the team was working with.
Photo image: AlgorithmWatch
- Automated discrimination: Facebook uses gross stereotypes to optimise ad delivery - AlgorithmWatch (in English), 18/10/2020;
- Automatisierte Diskriminierung: Facebook verwendet grobe Stereotypen, um die Anzeigenschaltung zu optimieren - AlgorithmWatch (in German), 18/10/2020;
- L'algorithme de Facebook est sexiste pour les offres d'emploi - RTS (in French), 18/10/2020;
- Facebook utilise des stéréotypes sexistes pour cibler les internautes - RadioFrance (in French), 19/10/2020;
- Zautomatyzowana dyskryminacja. Jak Facebook i Google wykorzystują stereotypy - Gazeta Wyborcza (in Polish), 19/10/2020;
- Discriminación automatizada: Facebook usa estereotipos de género para aumentar la eficacia de sus anuncios - InfoLibre (in Spanish), 19/10/2020.
need resources for your own investigative story?
Journalismfund.eu’s flexible grants programmes enable journalists to produce relevant public interest stories with a European mind-set from international, national, and regional perspectives.
support independent cross-border investigative journalism
We rely on your support to continue the work that we do. Make a gift of any amount today.