Netflix RACISM row over Love Actually movie recommendations

Lewis Collier
October 23, 2018

USA writer and podcaster Stacia L. Brown posted a few recent suggestions from the streaming service to her followers.

Netflix rolled out a new "artwork personalisation" algorithm last December, after it discovered that artwork was a key factor in users choosing movies to watch.

In at least two identified cases, films available on the streaming platform have different photos available on the main menu, one seeming to focus on white cast members, and the other depicting black actors. Ejiofor is the sole black actor in the film.

The post is accompanied by a title image of the film Like Father: an image that contains the black actors in question, Leonard Ouzts and Blaire Brooks, and none of the principal cast. "20 lines between them, tops".

Two subscribers claimed they received two different artworks for the film "Like Father".

Users noted the example of "Love Actually", a popular Christmas film starring Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson and Colin Firth.

But in the screenshot from Ms Brown, the artwork centres on Kiera Knightley and Oscar-winner Chitwetel Ejiofor.

Users first started posting snapshots of their recommendations on Twitter, enquiring with others as to whether they were having similar experiences.

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She wasn't the only one to be annoyed by false advertising, and people on Twitter chimed in with their own experiences of the Netflix algorithm. A Netflix spokesperson told the Mail Online: 'We don't ask members for their race, gender or ethnicity so we can not use this information to personalise their individual Netflix experience.

Netflix released the following statement, "We don't ask members for their race, gender or ethnicity so we can not use this information to personalise their individual Netflix experience".

Coder Ben from Chicago tweeted that people wouldn't find it comforting knowing they are being treated differently.

"It's beyond feeling duped", he told the publication. I rarely watch "Black" titles on Netflix in comparison to the rest of the content I actually view.

"If we present that flawless image on your homepage (and as they say: an image is worth a thousand words), then maybe, just maybe, you will give it a try".

"But I DO feel to unnecessarily targeted to watch what their algorithm thinks I should be watching. If it was me, I would be very upset".

The FADER has reached out to Netflix for comment.

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