The timing couldn’t have been worse for Google.
It had to apologize after its automatic image recognition feature in its Photos application identified images of some black people as “gorillas.” A New York man posted a picture of himself and a female friend on Twitter last week, showing that Google image software had tagged both of them as “gorillas.”
The timing couldn’t have been worse for this fiasco, dredging up an ages-old racial slur for African Americans. Racist detractors of President Barack Obama, who was elected in 2008 and re-elected in 2012 as the nation’s first African American commander in chief, has been horribly depicted as a monkey, ape and chimpanzee. First lady Michelle Obama has had to endure similar racial slurs.
Google’s problem occurs less than a month after the massacre of nine African Americans in the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., by a white gunman whose racist hate was fueled by stereotypes of black people and the Confederate battle flag flying over the grounds of the state Capitol. South Carolina lawmakers could vote as early as this week to bring that flag down permanently, but Google’s display of bias will continue to make waves worldwide.
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The Internet giant’s problem occurs after protests and unrest over a year of police killings of unarmed African American males, which has sparked the Black Lives Matter movement. It’s also as Internet giants like Google are being criticized for hiring practices that have been less than inclusive.
Technology companies’ workforces consist mostly of whites and Asians, The Associated Press reports. Google’s latest diversity figures show that whites and Asians comprise 94 percent of its workforce while African American hold 1 percent of the jobs.
Google executives warned when the app came out that it may make mistakes. In addition to having some humans as gorillas, the app has labeled others as seals, dogs and horses.