Algorithmic Justice League calls for support to stop erasure of Black women AI researchers

Petition launched to put pressure on 60 Minutes for its botched segment on facial recognition

The public awareness and advocacy organization Algorithmic Justice League (AJL) has launched a petition effort in response to a recent 60 Minutes segment on facial recognition, which relied heavily on the work of several Block women researchers in AI, but excluded them from the segment. One of the researchers mentioned in the petition's background information is former Google employee Dr. Timnit Gebru.

From AJL's email to its supporters:

On the evening of Sunday May 16, 2021, "60 Minutes" aired an episode hosted by Anderson Cooper on law enforcement use of facial recognition, and excluded the seminal and award-winning work of prominent Black women AI researchers Joy Buolamwini, Dr. Timnit Gebru, and Deborah Raji.

Instead, "60 Minutes" solely featured a technical study led by Patrick J. Grother, a white male scientist who leads biometric standards and testing at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

Ironically, although in the NIST study itself Grother carefully cites both Buolamwini's MIT master's thesis and a peer-reviewed publication co-authored by Buolamwini and Raji as "motivation," and although the "60 Minutes" team consulted extensively with Buolamwini, the episode itself excludes Black women's groundbreaking work.

I'll paste some extracts from the petition site itself below.

- Bruce

Petition site:
Black Women Did The Work. Then They Were Denied The Credit.

Demand “60 Minutes,” CBS and Anderson Cooper immediately apologize to and cite the contributions of Black women scientists who made their recent episode on facial recognition possible...

On Sunday, May 16, 2021, an episode of CBS’s flagship investigative news program “60 Minutes” included a segment on the racial bias embedded in law enforcement’s use of facial recognition technologies. The piece, hosted by Anderson Cooper, showcased the stories of two wrongfully accused Black men, but deliberately excluded the groundbreaking and award-winning work of prominent Black women AI researchers Joy Buolamwini, Dr. Timnit Gebru, and Inioluwa Deborah Raji. The producers also consulted with but then excluded Tawana Petty, who has led organizing work for community control of technology and against police use of AI for surveillance in Detroit for years...

It was yet another example of “60 Minutes” erasing the essential and pioneering contributions of women, namely Black women, in the fields of technology, computer science and artificial intelligence. A similar situation happened two years ago, when a “60 Minutes” report on the tech industry’s egregious gender gap cut out interviews with women leaders and instead featured a single male voice on the subject...

This erasure demonstrates the difference between the performative solidarity of corporate communications and the actual practice of media production. A year ago, during the 2020 uprisings, CBS News posted statements declaring “Black Lives Matter. Black Culture Matters. Black Communities Matter.” Now, they leave Black labor unacknowledged and Black voices on the cutting room floor...

CBS must make amends. Join us to demand that “60 Minutes” appropriately credit the researchers who helped them produce their recent segment and insist the program feature the very work and voices it deliberately left out.


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