Netflix accused of targeting black viewers with reconfigured posters and marketing

Lewis Collier
October 23, 2018

This film stars Kristen Bell/Kelsey Grammer and these actors had maaaaybe a 10 cumulative minutes of screen time. "20 lines between them, tops".

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

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.

The streaming network announced its algorithm will deliver personalised suggestions and visual artwork to its 130 million users based on their habits.

Netflix used the example of how it would depict the movie Goodwill Hunting to different subscribers, displaying artwork containing Matt Damon and Minnie Driver to someone who has watched many romantic movies, but featuring comedian Robin Williams for those who are drawn to comedies.

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.

"We don't ask members for their race, gender or ethnicity so we can not use this information to personalize 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. This in turn, she suggests, is duping users into thinking some movies and TV shows are more diverse than they actually are.

Brooklyn-based film-maker Tobi Aremu told The Guardian that he recently watched Set It Up, "which was made to look like a two-hander between Taye Diggs and Lucy Liu, but they were secondary characters in the love story of a young white couple!"

"It's beyond feeling duped", he told the publication.

The controversy could not come at a worse time for Netflix, which just took on another $2 billion in debt to bankroll its reach to become the streaming empire it aspires to.

"But I DO feel to unnecessarily targeted to watch what their algorithm thinks I should be watching". Why don't they give us more of what we want instead - black leads in big budget productions? "If it was me, I would be very upset".

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