BLM’s Co-Founder Has Urged Tech Bosses To Tackle Racism in AI

Black Lives Matter (BLM) co-founder Opal Tometi has urged the tech sector to take robust action against perpetuating racism in systems such as facial recognition.

“A lot of the algorithms, a lot of the data is racist,” U.S. activist Tometi, who co-founded BLM in 2013, told Reuters on the sidelines of Lisbon’s Web Summit.

“We need tech to truly understand every way it (racism) shows up in the technologies they are developing,” she said.

Her comments come just a day after Facebook announced it was shutting down its facial recognition system, citing concerns about its use. In addition, Microsoft said last year it would await federal regulation before selling facial recognition technology to the police.

Police in the United States and Britain use facial recognition to identify suspects. But – it’s pretty problematic.

 A study by the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology found the technology is not as accurate at identifying African-American and Asian faces compared to white faces.

Urging software developers to “pay attention to all details,” she said they should hear Black people more.

“Unfortunately, I feel like tech companies have a long way to go to build a bridge with the community,” she said.

Organizations have long complained about AI’s implications for the Black community. Earlier this year, Big Brother Watch told POCIT that the recent incidents with Facebook were “inexcusable” and “examples like this demonstrate just one of the fundamental flaws with automated recognition technology, which can have a devastating effect on minority communities when deployed by those in positions of power.”

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Abbianca Makoni

Abbianca Makoni is a content executive and writer at POCIT! She has years of experience reporting on critical issues affecting diverse communities around the globe.

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