Facebook, Inc., et al. v. Lyse Beaulieu
(Quebec) (Civil) (By Leave)
Civil procedure - Class actions - Civil procedure — Class action — Authorization to institute class action — Conditions for authorization of action — Identical, similar or related issues of law and fact — Class definition — Application for authorization to institute class action for damages resulting from the alleged participation of the respondents in discriminatory targeting of paid advertisement posted on its platform — What is the function of the class definition requirement at the authorization stage? — What are the parameters of the class definition requirement? — What is the role of the authorization judge, if any, in redefining a class that does not meet the parameters applicable to the class definition? — Is there a point at which the commonality requirement can be considered not met where the proposed common questions would lead to incalculable factual and legal analyses across every class member? — Code of Civil Procedure, CQLR, c. C 25.01, art. 575.
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The applicant Facebook Inc. (and its Canadian subsidiary Facebook Canada Ltd., collectively called Facebook), hosts on its platforms a plethora of advertisements for all types of goods and services. Ms. Beaulieu, the respondent, has been an active Facebook user since 2013. Between 2017 and 2019, as she was 63 to 65 years old, Ms. Beaulieu was looking for work on the Internet. One such place where she was looking for job postings was Facebook. She claims that the applicant has discriminatory practices in their ad targeting policies (wherein an advertiser can choose which general groups, including demographic groups, their ad will be shown to), the text of the ads on the site, and in the delivery of the ads (algorithmic decisions as to who actually gets to see the ads). In particular, Ms. Beaulieu claims that she was denied seeing ads for job postings that she would have liked to see because she was an older woman. Facebook’s policies were changed in the United States in 2019 to disallow the selection of a target audience based on prohibited grounds. These same changes came into effect in Canada on December 31st, 2021. The respondent thus decided to institute a class action law suit against the applicant for “[a]ll Facebook users located in Quebec who were interested in receiving or pursuing employment or who were seeking housing and who, as a result of their race, sex, civil status, age, ethnic or national origin, or social condition, were excluded by Facebook’s advertising services from receiving advertisements for employment or housing opportunities, or who were explicitly excluded from eligibility for these opportunities through advertisements posted on Facebook, between April 11, 2016 and the date of judgment in the present proceedings.” The Superior Court denied authorization for lack of commonality, while the Court of Appeal overturned that ruling, allowing authorization.
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