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Ad of the Day: Racial inequality campaign challenges Getty Images and Shutterstock’s search algorithm

Racial inequality campaign challenges Getty Images and Shutterstock’s search algorithm

A campaign from Brazilian NGO Desabafo Social is targeting some of the biggest image banks in the world including Google and Shutterstuck to get them to change their algorithms and remove the need to include the word "black" to find black people pictures on search results.

The #SearchForEquality campaign, which was created by WE, the biggest independent agency in Brazil, kicked off on 21 March, to cast light on the fact that veiled racism still persists in this society. It is particularly pertinent in Brazil where 54% of the population is black, so setting the standard as ‘white’ becomes even more controversial.

The experiment revealed a pattern throughout all Image Banks on search results for generic words, such as ‘family’. On Depositphotos, for instance, when the generic term ‘person’ is searched, almost all of images shown are related to white people. The same pattern was found on three more Image Banks: iStock ,Shutterstock and Getty Images, where the terms ‘skin’, ‘family’ and ‘baby’ were searched respectively. In order to find a considerable amount of black people pictures, the term ‘black’ had to be typed before the other terms.

"These algorithm flaws can be fixed for social equality. We are inviting all the Image Banks for a chat to see how it can be improved. We know it is a global issue, these search flaws can be found all over the internet, not only related to the Image Banks, however if everybody does their share, it is possible to change this reality,” said Monique Evelle, activist and founder of Desabafo Social.

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