Facebook announced on Friday that it disabled a topic recommendation feature after it associated mistakenly black men with “primates” in a video posted on the social network.
It happened in a video of a British media where, when finished, Facebook asked if the user wanted to “continue watching videos about primates.”
A company spokesperson called it “a clearly unacceptable bug” and said the recommendation software involved was taken offline.
“We apologize to anyone who has seen these offensive recommendations.“the company retracted.” We disabled the entire topic recommendation feature as soon as we realized this was happening so we could investigate the cause and prevent this from happening again. “
The facial recognition program has been harshly criticized by civil rights advocates, who point to accuracy issues particularly with people who are not white.
Facebook users in recent days saw a video of a British tabloid starring black men and received an automatically generated notice asking if they wanted to “continue watching videos about primates,” according to The New York Times.
Darci Groves, former head of content design at Facebook, shared a screenshot of the recommendation.
“This ‘keep watching’ notice is unacceptable,” Groves wrote on Twitter. “This is outrageous.”
Um. This “keep seeing” prompt is unacceptable, @Facebook. And despite the video being more than a year old, a friend got this prompt yesterday. Friends at FB, please escalate. This is egregious. pic.twitter.com/vEHdnvF8ui
– Darci Groves (@tweetsbydarci) September 2, 2021
Facial recognition, the controversy
Facial recognition is a technology highly developed by Amazon. AFP photo
Dani Lever, a Facebook spokesperson, gave more details in a statement. And artificial intelligence that recognizes faces was the protagonist in the controversy: “As we have said, although we have made improvements to our AI, we know that it is not perfect. and we have more progress to make ”.
The problem is not new. Google, Amazon, and other tech companies have been under scrutiny for years for biases within their artificial intelligence systems, particularly around racial issues.
Studies have shown that facial recognition technology is biased against people of color and has more trouble identifying them, leading to incidents where black people have been discriminated against or arrested due to computer errors.
For example, in 2015 Google Photos wrongly labeled images of black people as “gorillas.” Google said it was “really sorry” and would work to fix the problem immediately.
More than two years later, Wired discovered that Google’s solution was to censor the word “gorilla” from searches, while also blocking “chimp,” “chimp,” and “monkey.”
The artificial intelligences used to recognize faces generate controversy. Photo EFE
Facebook has one of the world’s largest repositories of user-uploaded images in which to train its facial and object recognition algorithms. The company, which tailors content to users based on their previous browsing and viewing habits, sometimes asks people if they would like to keep seeing posts in related categories. It was not clear whether messages such as “primates” were widespread.
Racist problems also previously caused internal problems at Facebook. In 2016, Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO, asked employees to stop crossing out the phrase “Black Lives Matter” and replace it with “All Lives Matter” in a common space at the company’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California.
Hundreds of employees also held a virtual strike last year to protest the company’s handling of a publication by President Donald J. Trump on the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis.