Facebook Hit with Massive National Civil Rights Class Action by Women and Older People Denied Financial Services Opportunities on Facebook for Years

PRNewswire—Outten & Golden LLP

Facebook users demand that the company immediately take action to stop financial services ads from being targeted away from women and older persons on Facebook

Contacts: Peter Romer-Friedman, Outten & Golden LLP, @email, 718-938-6132

Matthew Handley, Handley Farah & Anderson LLP, @email, 202-559-2411

SAN FRANCISCO — Today, a class action was filed against Facebook alleging that older and female Facebook users have been denied advertisements about financial services opportunities on Facebook. The action, filed by a 54-year-old District of Columbia resident, alleges that Facebook has denied millions of older persons and women equal treatment on Facebook, and seeks to bar Facebook and advertisers from excluding older persons and women from receiving ads for various financial services, like bank accounts, loans, insurance, and investments.

In 2017, Facebook came under fire by civil rights groups, workers, and consumers for allegedly collaborating with advertisers to exclude older persons, women, and people of color from receiving job, housing, and credit ads on Facebook.  Several legal actions were brought by Outten & Golden LLP, one of the firms that filed the action today.  In March 2019 settlement, Facebook agreed to take far-reaching measures to stop advertisers from using age, gender, and other protected traits to target job, housing, and credit ads, and in September 2019 it began implementing those changes. 

Today’s lawsuit alleges that Facebook has not taken any action to stop advertisers from excluding older persons and women from getting financial services ads on Facebook, other than in the limited area of credit ads.  Among other relief, today’s action seeks to require Facebook to ensure that its services—including ads for financial services opportunities—do not discriminate based on age or gender.

Peter Romer-Friedman of Outten & Golden LLP, said “This action seeks justice for the millions of older people and women who were denied information about valuable financial services opportunities via Facebook.  We hope that Facebook will take immediate action to stop what we see as obvious ongoing discrimination.  The law requires businesses—including Facebook—to provide equal treatment to all of their customers.  No company should profit from discrimination.” 

Matthew Handley of Handley, Farah, and Anderson LLP, said “Women and older persons are entitled to full and equal services of businesses such as Facebook and the financial services companies that advertise on Facebook’s platform.  Purposeful targeting of advertisements away from these members of our community unlawfully denies them these guarantees.”

Neutah Opiotennione, a 54-year-old woman who filed the case, said “I hope that Facebook will think long and hard about its actions and agree to treat all Facebook users equally.”   

Facebook remains under fire for discrimination on its platform that has over 2 billion users globally, despite its March 2019 settlement with labor, civil rights, and civil liberties groups, including the Communications Workers of America.  Last week, House Financial Services Committee members criticized Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg for what they saw as a slow response to 2016 and 2017 charges that Facebook engaged in housing discrimination, including the practice of redlining.  In March 2019, the Department of Housing and Urban Development filed an action charging Facebook with violating the federal Fair Housing Act.  And in July 2019, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found reasonable cause that federal discrimination laws were violated when employers’ job ads on Facebook excluded women and older persons. 

Today’s lawsuit, Neutah Opiotennione v. Facebook, Inc. (N.D. Cal.), was filed in a federal district court in San Francisco and asserts claims under state public accommodations law. 

Ms. Opiotennione and the putative class members are represented by Adam Klein, Jahan Sagafi, Peter Romer-Friedman, Michael Litrownik, and Pooja Shethji of Outten & Golden LLP; Matthew Handley and Rachel Nadas of Handley Farah & Anderson LLP; Jason Flanders of Aqua Terra Aeris Law Group; and William Most of the Law Office of William Most. 

After discovery in the case, Ms. Opiotennione will ask the court the certify a nationwide class of older and female Facebook users who were denied financial services ads over the past three years due to their age or gender.