Facebook is showing different job ads to women and men in a way that might run afoul of anti-discrimination laws, according to a new study.
University of Southern California researchers who examined the ad-delivery algorithms of Facebook and LinkedIn found that Facebook’s were skewed by gender beyond what can be legally justified by differences in job qualifications.
Men were more likely to see Domino’s pizza delivery driver job ads on Facebook, while women were more likely to see Instacart shopper ads.
The trend also held in higher-paying engineering jobs at tech firms like Netflix and chipmaker Nvidia. A higher fraction of women saw the Netflix ads than the Nvidia ads, which parallels the gender breakdown in each company's workforce.
No evidence was found of similar bias in the job ads delivered by LinkedIn.
Study author Aleksandra Korolova, an assistant professor of computer science at USC, said it might be that LinkedIn is doing a better job at deliberately tamping down bias, or it might be that Facebook is simply better at picking up real-world cues from its users about gender imbalances and perpetuating them.
“It’s not that the user is saying, ‘Oh, I’m interested in this.’ Facebook has decided on behalf of the user whether they are likely to engage," she said. "And just because historically a certain group wasn’t interested in engaging in something, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have an opportunity to pursue it, especially in the job category.”
Facebook said in a statement Friday it has been taking meaningful steps to address issues of discrimination in ads.