DailyMail.com wins groveling apology from Facebook


DailyMail.com wins groveling apology from Facebook for AI fail that labelled news video of black men being harassed and arrested as ‘primates’

  • Facebook on Saturday issued a public apology to DailyMail.com and MailOnline 
  • Facebook’s AI labeled a news video showing black men as related to ‘primates’
  • Users reacted with horror to the highly offensive label generated by Facebook
  • ‘This was an algorithmic error on Facebook and did not reflect the content of the Daily Mail’s post,’ a Facebook spokesman said in the groveling apology 


Facebook has issued a public apology to DailyMail.com and MailOnline for adding an AI-generated label of ‘primates’ to a news video from the website that featured black men.

A Facebook spokesman admitted the error was ‘unacceptable’ on Saturday, telling DailyMail.com: ‘We apologize to anyone who may have seen these offensive recommendations and to the Daily Mail for its content being subject to it.’

‘This was an algorithmic error on Facebook and did not reflect the content of the Daily Mail’s post,’ the company admitted.

At issue is a news video that the Mail posted to Facebook on June 27, 2020 which depicts a white man appearing to harass a black man and calling the police on him.  

Facebook has publicly apologized to DailyMail.com and MailOnline for adding an AI-generated label referencing ‘primates’ to this Mail news video depicting black men 

At issue is a news video that DailyMail.com posted to Facebook on June 27, which depicts a white man appearing to harass a black man. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is seen above

At issue is a news video that DailyMail.com posted to Facebook on June 27, which depicts a white man appearing to harass a black man. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is seen above

Though the video has nothing to do with monkeys or other primates, Facebook’s AI-generated prompt asked viewers if they would like to ‘keep seeing videos about Primates,’ horrifying and offending users of the social network.

Initially, Facebook failed to notify the Mail of its blunder when it was spotted by the New York Times, and the social media giant’s statement to the Times did not definitively specify that Facebook had added the offensive label to the Mail’s post.

Facebook has now disabled the faulty recommendation algorithm.

‘This was clearly an unacceptable error on Facebook and 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 Facebook spokesperson told DailyMail.com.

‘As we have said, while we have made improvements to our AI we know it’s not perfect and we have more progress to make,’ the company added.

Facebook has been criticized in the past about its A.I. systems, and alleged bias against people of color.

Studies suggest that facial recognition systems have more trouble identifying them, leading to incidents where black people have been discriminated against or arrested because of biased AI algorithms.

The offensive label that Facebook’s AI algorithms applied to the Mail video drew strong reactions, with many slamming the social media company for not monitoring its automated technology.

‘This **** really has to stop,’ tweeted Charles Onyango-Obbo, a journalist and former editor of the Mail & Guardian Africa in Johannesburg. 

‘Everyday we see the limits, biases and pure idiocy of relying solely on AI. And yet we continue to allow ourselves to be guinea pigs,’ tweeted New York Times cybersecurity reporter Nicole Perlroth. 

Kate Conger, a tech reporter for the New York Times, wrote: ‘the fact that this has happened at multiple major tech companies really says something about the way AI is being built.’

‘Facebook is in a state of perpetually resetting their “how many days since we did something racist” counter back to zero,’ another person tweeted. 

Sean C. Griffith, an attorney, wrote that artificial intelligence ‘generally has a lot of problems, and tech companies often miss the problems related to race because they hire very few Black people.’ 

‘For example, a Black #AI developer probably would have caught this one,’ he noted.

Facebook’s apology to DailyMail.com

A Facebook spokesperson shared the following statement on Saturday: 

‘This was clearly an unacceptable error on Facebook and 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. 

‘This was an algorithmic error on Facebook and did not reflect the content of the Daily Mail’s post. 

‘As we have said, while we have made improvements to our AI we know it’s not perfect and we have more progress to make. 

‘We apologize to anyone who may have seen these offensive recommendations and to the Daily Mail for its content being subject to it.’ 

 

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