Facebook labels black men 'primates'

Occurred: September 2021

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Facebook's recommendation system has been discovered to be asking users watching a Daily Mail video featuring Black men whether they like to '[k]eep seeing videos about Primates.'

The video was published late June by the Daily Mail on its Facebook page and depicted white people, including police officers, confronting Black men. No primates were shown.  

The discovery led to widespread condemnation of Facebook apparent inability to manage unsafe content on its platform, and to discussions about its over-reliance on technology to detect and manage unsafe content. 

The company apologised for its 'unacceptable error', said it had disabled its topic recommendation feature responsible for the message, and will look to ensure it does not happen again.

Operator: Meta/Facebook
Developer: Meta/Facebook
Country: USA
Sector: Technology
Purpose: Recommend topics
Technology: Topic recommendation system
Issue: Bias/discrimination - race
Transparency: Governance; Black box