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This article was published on June 18, 2020

YouTube sued for using AI to racially profile content creators

They claim YouTube's algorithms discriminate against black users

YouTube sued for using AI to racially profile content creators Image by: from Pexels
Thomas Macaulay
Story by

Thomas Macaulay

Writer at Neural by TNW Writer at Neural by TNW

A group of black content creators has sued YouTube for allegedly using AI to censor their videos based “wholly or in part” on race.

The lawsuit accuses the video giant of using algorithms to “digitally profile, redline, and target” users “for access restrictions, blocking, demonetization, suspensions, and removals from the platform based on the racial identity or viewpoint of the video creator.”

More specifically, it alleges that YouTube has misapplied “Restricted Mode” to censor videos with titles or tags such as “Black Lives Matter,” “Racial Profiling,” and “White Supremacy.”

[Read: Microsoft’s AI editor confuses mixed-race popstar in story about racism]

The plaintiffs also claim that YouTube shadow bans entire channels and individual videos, interferes with livestreams, and excludes content from video recommendations when it mentions racially-sensitive topics.

They say that this forces users to self-censor and stop posting videos about issues that are important to the African-American community.

YouTube under fire

The new lawsuit joins a growing list of claims that YouTube discriminates against certain groups of users.

The company is currently fighting a separate case claiming that its algorithm suppresses LGBT content. Another content creator claims that YouTube officials admitted in 2017 that the company’s content moderation algorithms discriminate based on race.

At the time of writing, YouTube hadn’t publicly responded to the lawsuit. However, the company has previously denied that its software discriminates against people for their race in gender.

Last week, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki launched a $100 million fund dedicated to “amplifying and developing the voices of black creators and artists and their stories.” The content creators say they would prefer her to use the money “to stop the racist practices that pervade the YouTube platform.”

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