PhD student Colin Madland was among the first to point out the issue after he attempted to post a two-up image of his face and that of his Black colleague’s
Twitter has apologized after users called its ‘image-cropping’ algorithm racist for automatically focusing on white faces over Black ones.
Users noticed that when two separate photos, one of a white face and the other of a Black face, were displayed in the post, the algorithm would crop the latter out and only show the former on its mobile version.
PhD student Colin Madland was among the first to point out the issue on Sept. 18, after a Black colleague asked him to help stop Zoom from removing his head while using a virtual background.
Madland attempted to post a two-up display of him and his colleague with the head erased and noticed that Twitter automatically cropped his colleague out and focused solely on his face.
A faculty member has been asking how to stop Zoom from removing his head when he uses a virtual background. We suggested the usual plain background, good lighting etc, but it didn’t work. I was in a meeting with him today when I realized why it was happening.
“Geez .. any guesses why @Twitter defaulted to show only the right side of the picture on mobile?” he tweeted along with a screenshot.
Entrepreneur Tony Arcieri experimented with the algorithm using a two-up image of Barack Obama and U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell. He discovered that the algorithm would consistently crop out Obama and instead show two images of McConnell.
Several other Twitter users also tested the feature out and noticed that the same thing happened with stock models, different characters from The Simpsons, and golden and black retrievers.
Dantley Davis, Twitter’s chief design officer, replied to Madland’s tweet and suggested his facial hair could be affecting the model “because of the contrast with his skin.” Davis, who said he experimented with the algorithm after seeing Madland’s tweet, added that once he removed Madland’s facial hair from the photo, the Black colleague’s image showed in the preview.
Based on some experiments I tried, I think @colinmadland‘s facial hair is affecting the model because of the contrast with his skin. I removed his facial hair and the Black man shows in the preview for me. Our team did test for racial bias before shipping the model. pic.twitter.com/Gk33NQlGgB
“Our team did test for racial bias before shipping this model,” he said, but noted that the issue is “100% (Twitter’s) fault.”
“Now the next step is fixing it,” he wrote in another tweet.
In a statement, a Twitter spokesperson conceded the company had some further testing to do.
“Our team did test for bias before shipping the model and did not find evidence of racial or gender bias in our testing. But it’s clear from these examples that we’ve got more analysis to do. We’ll continue to share what we learn, what actions we take, and will open source our analysis so others can review and replicate,” they said, as quoted by the Guardian.
As it turns out, Sony has recognized the error of its ways. “Let’s be honest: PS5 preorders could have been been a lot smoother,” Sony tweeted from the PlayStation Twitter account on Saturday. “We truly apologize for that. Over the next few days, we will release more PS5 consoles for preorder — retailers will share more details. And more PS5s will be available through the end of the year.”
Let’s be honest: PS5 preorders could have been a lot smoother. We truly apologize for that.
Over the next few days, we will release more PS5 consoles for preorder – retailers will share more details.
Specific details on future pre-order windows are still unclear.
To add more chaos to the pre-order mess, Amazon reported on Friday that people who did secure pre-orders might still see delays in getting their consoles. The company emailed pre-order customers and warned them they “may not receive this item on the day it is released due to high demand.” It continued: “We’ll make every effort to get the item to you as soon as possible once released.”
Bethesda is the publisher of games like The Elder Scrolls, Doom and Fallout and also has at least two titles slated for debut next year. ZeniMax, based in Rockville, Maryland, also owns several other studios across the globe, giving Microsoft’s Xbox business a much-needed infusion of titles and game developers. It’s one of the biggest privately-held game companies with 2,300 employees worldwide, Microsoft said.
Microsoft is launching a new generation of Xbox consoles in November at the same time as Sony Corp.’s PlayStation 5. The games lined up for the new Xbox have so far disappointed some players, especially after Microsoft delayed its biggest title, Halo Infinite, until next year. The software maker has been adding new game creators and content, including acquiring six studios in 2018 and one last year. It spent $2.5 billion to purchase the maker of Minecraft in 2014.
Microsoft is leaning on its game subscription service, Game Pass, to draw in users and boost revenue and needs compelling content to attract customers to that product. Microsoft said Game Pass now has 15 million subscribers, up from the 10 million it announced in April.
“Bethesda’s games have always had a special place on Xbox and in the hearts of millions of gamers around the world,” said Xbox chief Phil Spencer in a blog post. “Our teams have a close and storied history working together.”
Recently however, Bethesda has been working more tightly with Sony. Bethesda had previously agreed to debut two of its upcoming games, Deathloop and Ghostwire: Tokyo, on Sony’s new PlayStation rather than Xbox. Both games were announced as “timed console exclusives,” meaning that they would be restricted to the PlayStation 5 for a fixed period of time before coming to Xbox. It remains to be seen how this acquisition will affect that deal.
Microsoft expects the deal to close in the second half of its fiscal year 2021, which ends June 30, and to have “minimal” impact on its adjusted operating income for the current and next fiscal years. The shares were down 1.4% to $197.66 at 9:35 a.m. in New York.
Sony’s launch lineup for the PlayStation 5 is stronger than Microsoft’s and that machine is expected to outsell the new Xbox devices, the Series X and Series S, according to George Jijiashvili, an analyst at researcher Omdia.
Bethesda was a pioneer in the market for personal computer games and an early developer of new types of games. The company was founded by Christopher Weaver in 1986 and initially developed football and hockey simulation games, before releasing role-playing title The Elder Scrolls in 1994.
ZeniMax was founded in 1999 by Weaver and Robert Altman, the company’s chief executive officer, to serve as a parent company for Bethesda. Over the next decade, it acquired the Fallout franchise and Id Software, the maker of Doom and Quake. Bethesda’s structure and leadership will remain in place, Microsoft said.
(Updates with Microsoft comment in fifth paragraph.)
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