Headless on Zoom, prof haunts Twitter, too
Now you see it, now you don’t.
Zoom has contacted a black graduate school professor whose head is being cropped by the app when he used the video conferencing service’s virtual background.
In both problems with Zoom and Twitter, algorithmic bias was blamed like when Google misidentified Africans as ‘gorillas’ in its photo service.
A Ph.D. student, Colin Madland, brought to Zoom’s attention the technical glitch through Twitter.
“We have reached out directly to the user to investigate this issue. We’re committed to providing a platform that is inclusive for all,” a Zoom spokesperson said.
The issue took a mysterious turn when in discussing the issue via Twitter’s mobile app, only the image of Madland, a white guy, appeared in the preview.
In both problems with Zoom and Twitter, algorithmic bias was blamed although the latter did not subscribe to the theory.
“Our team did tests for bias before shipping the model and did not find evidence of racial or gender bias in our testing,” said a Twitter spokesperson.
“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.”
Twitter’s chief design officer vowed to fix the issue as he was “as irritated about this as everyone else,” referring to the app cropping out people with African lineage.
It may be recalled that Google’s own algorithms had been slammed in the past for labeling photos of
Africans as gorillas.
Google’s own glitch became public in 2015 when software engineer Jacky Alciné showed that the Google Photos algorithms were classifying his black friends as “gorillas,” prompting an apology from the search engine company.
In 2018, the same issue was resurrected as Google was accused of not doing anything to stop the mislabelling of colored people as gorillas. However, it was made known that Google, supposedly unwilling to really find a solution, simply stopped identifying gorillas, chimpanzees and monkeys altogether to stop the mislabelling. According to the tech website Wired, it conducted tests on Google Photos’ system by uploading numerous photos of primates like baboons, gibbons and marmosets that were all correctly identified. “But gorillas and chimpanzees were not,” it said, lending credence to the report that gorillas were just removed from the algorithm to stop mislabelling.