A cla*s action lawsuit alleging Facebook unlawfully allowed advertisers to target users based on their race, age and gender may go ahead after the Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal from the media giant social.
Facebook had asked Canada’s highest court to overturn a decision by the Quebec Court of Appeal authorizing the cla*s action.
Audrey Boctor, one of the lawyers behind the lawsuit, said the highest court’s decision means the case can now move forward to a possible trial.
“We now know for sure that the cla*s action can take place,” she said in an interview Monday. “Facebook had asked the Supreme Court to hear the case and the Supreme Court declined, meaning the Court of Appeal’s judgment stands and we now move on to the merits.”
The Supreme Court said Thursday it would not consider the case, declining to give reasons for its decision as is customary.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Lyse Beaulieu, a 65-year-old woman looking for a new job. She alleges that she was never shown any job postings on the social media site, despite being an active user, because the advertisers chose to exclude people her age.
The lawsuit — filed in 2019 when the company known today as Meta Platforms Inc. was still called Facebook — alleges that the social media site violated the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms by offering advertisers with tools to target housing and employment advertisements to users based on their age, race and gender and ensuring that people outside of these targeted groups do not see the advertisements.
He also alleges that Facebook’s algorithm blocked people from seeing certain ads for reasons prohibited by law and claims that the platform allowed explicitly discriminatory ads in their language.
The Court of Appeal’s decision authorizing the lawsuit includes all Quebec residents who were looking for work or housing and did not see relevant ads on Facebook because advertisers decided to exclude them because of their race, age or gender.
Boctor says the case is about tackling new forms of discrimination in employment and housing.
“We have long prohibited discrimination in these areas, and for good reason. And it’s really about fighting new forms of that same kind of discrimination, so instead of a job ad saying some people don’t need to apply, now the ads just don’t reach the people we may want to exclude from applying for these jobs,” she says.
Facebook argued in court that it was not responsible for discrimination by third-party advertisers and said it removes discriminatory ads when flagged.
Court of Appeals ruling says Anthony Howard, director of privacy and data policy at Facebook, Inc., provided an affidavit that Facebook doesn’t allow advertisers to target users by race .
He said the platform has also taken specific steps to address discrimination in housing and job advertisements, according to the Court of Appeal’s ruling, which notes that these changes were made after the lawsuit was filed. cla*s action claim.
The Superior Court of Quebec initially denied the request to certify the case as a cla*s action on the grounds that there was no identifiable cla*s and that some of the claims were based on speculation.
This decision was reversed by the Court of Appeal.
Boctor said the next step will be to identify potential cla*s action members and notify them.
Meta did not respond to a request for comment.
© 2023 The Canadian Press