Facebook Apologises After AI Labelled Black Men As ‘Primates’

by : Hannah Smith on :
Facebook Apologises After AI Labelled Black Men As ‘Primates’PA Images

Facebook has apologised for an ‘unacceptable error’ after its artificial intelligence (AI) software labelled Black men as ‘primates’.

The social media giant confirmed it had disabled a video recommendation feature on its platform that had asked users watching a video featuring Black men if they wanted to ‘keeping seeing videos about primates’.

Facebook AI software labels Black men as 'primates' (@tweetsbydarci/Twitter)@tweetsbydarci/Twitter

The error involved a video uploaded by MailOnline in June 2020 that showed a white man calling the police and telling them he was ‘being harassed by a bunch of Black men’ who had been celebrating a birthday party.

A former Facebook employee tweeted about the error after it was brought to her attention last week, urging the company to take action to remove the offensive suggestion.

‘This ‘keep seeing’ prompt is unacceptable, @Facebook…and despite the video being more than a year old, a friend got this prompt yesterday,’ she said, telling her former employer, ‘Please escalate. This is egregious.’


In a statement to The New York Times, a spokesperson for Facebook said the company had disabled the AI feature responsible for the mistake and was investigating the ‘root cause’ of the issue.

Facebook (PA Images)PA Images

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They apologised for the ‘unacceptable error’ and said they were working to ‘prevent this from happening again’.

Sadly, the is not the first time that a major tech company has seen its software misidentify Black people. In 2015, Google apologised after its Google Photos auto-tagging feature labelled pictures of Black people as ‘gorillas,’ with tags featuring the word ‘gorilla’ ‘chimpanzee’ and ‘monkey’ remaining censored from the platform for several years.


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Hannah Smith

Hannah Smith is a London-based journalist at UNILAD. After studying History at UCL she worked for print publications on both sides of the pond, including spells at Harper's Magazine and The Times, before graduating with an MA in Newspaper Journalism from City, University of London.

Topics: Technology, Artificial Intelligence, Facebook, Now


New York Times
  1. New York Times

    Facebook apologises after AI puts 'primates' label on video of Black men