Tech industry criticised for racial bias in hiring & application of AI technology

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3 April 2019

Commentary: Racial literacy needed to avoid racial bias in AI technology

Author: Jessie Daniels, Quartz

""Color-blindness" is a bad approach to solving bias in algorithms", 3 April 2019

To forge an ethical AI, we need to include racial literacy... In the tech world, that means considering race in the initial phase of product development and recognizing the way the broader social world seeps into technological design, infrastructure, and implementation to unintentionally reproduce racism. While some argue that the highest ethical standard in technology is to be color blind, neither research nor experience bear this out.

... [I]t’s not just people perpetuating racial bias. The algorithms that are at the center of AI reproduce existing inequalities, too... [T]he tech industry has made attempts at addressing bias. This has mostly been through implicit bias trainings... but after two decades, the promise of implicit bias as a solution to racial bias has not paid off... f people at levels in the tech industry were to ask basic racial-literacy questions, then these unanticipated outcomes might be more predictable... We need racial literacy for deciphering propaganda online, too... Increasing racial literacy will certainly help with what one former Facebook executive called the “black people problem.” “The widespread underrepresentation of faces of color in tech is already alarming,” says Mark S. Luckie, who recently left the social-media company, but not before he issued a public memo on the lack of attention to racial issues at the company. Luckie contends that Facebook is failing black employees and black users, who are often overrepresented as users but make up only 4% of the company’s workforce.

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27 November 2018

Former Facebook employee says the company has 'a black people problem'

Author: Sara Ashley O'Brien, CNN Business

On... [27 November 2018], the [former Facebook] manager, vocal diversity advocate Mark S. Luckie, made public a memo he sent to Facebook's global staff before leaving the company... [in which] Luckie said black people make up some of the most active users on Facebook but the company itself is not nearly as diverse... Luckie said... "The population of Facebook employees doesn't reflect its most engaged user base... Facebook can't claim that it is connecting communities if those communities aren't represented proportionately in its staffing."... [the] lack of black representation among employees has an adverse impact both on users and its black staffers. Black people are finding that their attempts to create 'safe spaces' on Facebook for conversation among themselves are being derailed by the platform itself... [[He recommends] creating an internal system for employees to anonymously report microaggressions and establishing more focus groups with users from underrepresented communities to understand their experiences on Facebook and Instagram.

... Facebook spokesperson Anthony Harrison [said] the company said it has been "diligently" working on increasing diversity over the last few years. "The growth in representation of people from more diverse groups, working in many different functions across the company, is a key driver of our ability to succeed... We want to fully support all employees when there are issues reported and when there may be micro-behaviors that add up. We are going to keep doing all we can to be a truly inclusive company."... Luckie said he's making the Facebook memo public because "Facebook does not make any meaningful change on a company level unless it is being held accountable publicly."

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