In a backdrop of recent killings of Geroge Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmed Arbury's has cast fresh light on racial discrimination around the world. From brands to skincare products changing their names and products
But gradually netizens realised that racial discrimination does not just exist in human behaviour but also in digital tools or social media algorithms, intentionally or unintentionally.
This time Twitter came under the scanner for racism for its image previews on its timeline. The photo preview favours showing faces of white people over black.
The 'racial bias' experiment
Twitter was abuzz when netizens posted several examples of how, in an image featuring a photo of a Black person and a photo of a white person, Twitter's preview of the photo in the timeline more frequently displayed the white person.
The informal testing began after a Twitter user tried to post about a problem he noticed in Zoom's facial recognition, which was not showing the face of a Black colleague on calls. When he posted to Twitter, he noticed it too was favouring his white face over his Black colleague's face.
This was followed by several Twitter users posting examples of posts that had a Black person's face and a white person's face. Twitter's preview showed the white faces more often.
One user posted the experiment, "Trying a horrible experiment... Which will the Twitter algorithm pick: Mitch McConnell or Barack Obama?"
Trying a horrible experiment...
Which will the Twitter algorithm pick: Mitch McConnell or Barack Obama? pic.twitter.com/bR1GRyCkia
— Tony "Abolish (Pol)ICE" Arcieri (@bascule) September 19, 2020
'We're looking into this': Twitter takes cognisance
After netizens ran through experiments, this caught Twitter's attention and now the company is apparently taking further action. According to reports, Liz Kelly, a member of the Twitter communications team said, "Our team did test for bias before shipping the model and did not find evidence of racial or gender bias in our testing. But it's clear from these examples that we've got more analysis to do. We're looking into this and will continue to share what we learn and what actions we take." Twitter's Chief Design Officer Dantley Davis and Chief Technology Officer Parag Agrawal also chimed in on Twitter, saying they're "investigating" the neural network. Here are some of the experiments by the netizens
A faculty member has been asking how to stop Zoom from removing his head when he uses a virtual background. We suggested the usual plain background, good lighting etc, but it didn't work. I was in a meeting with him today when I realized why it was happening. — Colin Madland (@colinmadland) September 19, 2020
I wonder how it is that you've said this without testing it? pic.twitter.com/rro1vn8Mh8
— Graham Christensen (@grhmc) September 19, 2020