Pokémon Go 'redlines' coloured, poor communities

Occurred: August 2016

Augmented reality mobile game Pokémon Go was criticised for placing too few Pokéstops in US communities of colour and other disadvantaged neighbourhoods, resulting in accusations of bias and 'redlining'. 

Redlining is a term used when a community is deprived of essential services, including the provision of mortgages, based on its economic, racial, or ethnic make-up.

The location of so-called Pokéstops and Gyms - where users can pick up virtual goods and prepare for battles, and which map onto real-world locations such as parks, churches and public buildings - were seen to benefit local businesses and communities by driving publicity, revenue and engagement, reducing crime, and persuading people to take exercise. 

But not all communities were seen to benefit equally. Using maps of 'portals' from its gaming predecessor, Ingress, the Urban Institute think tank estimated that Pokémon Go averaged 55 portals in majority white neighbourhoods, against 19 portals in majority black neighbourhoods - figures that were substantiated by other organisations in other locations.

Operator: Niantic
Developer: Niantic

Country: USA

Sector: Media/entertainment/sports/arts

Purpose: Drive engagement

Technology: Augmented reality (AR)
Issue: Bias/discrimination - race, ethnicity, income

Transparency: Governance

Page info
Type: Incident
Published: August 2016