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Challenging discriminatory algorithms through legal means

The Meta Case

Is Facebook potentially violating Dutch equality laws? In this event, leading up to a hearing of the case before the Netherlands Institute for Human Rights against digital giant Meta, we delve into the origins of this Meta Case and engage in a broader conversation about how technological developments can reflect, identify, and address societal issues such as sexism, racism, and other types of discrimination.

In 2023, the UK-based human rights organization Global Witness partnered with Bureau Clara Wichmann, a Dutch women’s rights organization, in filing a complaint against Meta at the Institute after investigating Facebook’s algorithms. In 2022, Global Witness placed gender-neutral advertisements for multiple job vacancies such as electrician, hairdresser, elementary school teacher, and mechanic on Facebook. The findings strongly showed that Facebook’s advertising algorithm makes distinctions based on gender when displaying job vacancies to Facebook users, particularly for professions historically associated with either men or women. For example, job vacancies for electrician and mechanic were predominantly shown to men, while vacancies for receptionist, elementary school teacher and hairdresser appeared almost exclusively on women’s timelines.

About the speakers

Naomi Appelman is an interdisciplinary PhD researcher at the Institute for Information Law (IViR) at the University of Amsterdam, where she’s researching how European Law can facilitate the contestability of algorithmic systems, such as content moderation governing online speech, to minimize undue exclusion from online space and democratize the power over how online speech is governed. She is also co-founder and chair of the Racism and Technology Center, an organization provides a platform, resources, and skills to anti-racism and digital rights organizations, helping them understand and dismantle the manifestations of racism in technology.

Rosie Sharpe is a campaigner at Global Witness, a UK-based non-governmental organization that focuses on investigating and holding companies and governments accountable for corruption, environmental destruction, and human rights violations. She focuses on issues such as anti-money laundering and digital threats to democracy.

Jurriaan Parie is a mathematician, AI policy watcher, consultant and algorithm expert who advocates for a fair digital future through Algorithm Audit. Algorithm Audit is a non-profit organization that focuses on creating and sharing knowledge on ethical algorithms. As director at Algorithm Audit, he assists organizations and institutions in the Netherlands, such as DUO, and across Europe in reducing bias in digital systems.

Berty Bannor  With her background in public international law, Berty works as a staff member at Bureau Clara Wichmann, a feminist organization in the Netherlands. The organization advocates for legal and social change on a variety of issues to promote gender equality and women’s rights through strategic litigation, research, and advocacy. Within the organization, Berty focuses on themes such as work and income, as well as tech and online safety for women.


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