Google Forced to Say "Sorry" to User Whose Photos Were Tagged "Gorillas"

Claire Bernish
July 2, 2015

(ANTIMEDIA) Google found itself in the awkward position of having to apologize for an automatic tag generated by its new photo app when it labeled photographs of one of its users and his friend—who are both black— “gorillas.”

“Google Photos, y’all fucked up. My friend’s not a gorilla,” tweeted Jacky Alciné on Sunday.

Google’s “chief architect of social,” Yonatan Zunger reacted quickly, replying, “This is 100% Not OK.” Employees scrambled to fix the unintentionally racist error.

Zunger explained through a series of messages that Google’s image recognition software has experienced past problems. “We used to have a problem with people (of all races) being tagged as dogs, for instance,” Zunger said. He added that mistakes can occur when faces are obscured and that “different contrast processing [is] needed for different skin tones and lighting.”

According to Zunger, Google is working on a long-term solution, including “words to be careful about in photos of people” that would prevent such an egregious accident in the future.

After Google claimed it had applied a fix to eliminate the problem, Alciné’s Twitter thread implied the mislabeling was still an issue. Ultimately, the decision was made to do away with the “gorilla” tag completely until sufficient  improvements are implemented.

Though Google rushed to fix the problem when it happened, the fact that it even occurred at all has been the subject of some controversy.

Alciné posed that concern in a tweet, saying, “Like I understand HOW this happens; the problem is moreso on the WHY.”

After Zunger later saw a racist comment on the same Twitter thread—of which Alciné said there had been many—he replied, “I would say I’m surprised but I’m not. Just disappointed with humanity.”

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