Photo-hosting site Flickr is taking some heat today over some unfortunate tags automatically showing up on users’ pictures. Specifically, the auto-tagging program has described people (of various races) as “animals” and identified concentration camps as “jungle gyms” and “sport.”
The auto-tag system remains in place, but some users want it gone.
Flickr introduced auto-tagging in May, and it is an entirely mechanical process with no human input before the labels go live on the site. The photo site is now feeling the consequences of leaving potentially harmful and offensive processes entirely in the cold, soul-less hands of machines that certainly don’t know why anyone might have a problem with an African-American man’s photo receiving an “ape” tag or the fundamental differences between Nazi death camps and pylons.
Among the photos people are calling into question are a picture of a man named William, which Flickr is still tagging as “animal” — although the “ape” tag on this and a photo of a white woman no longer appear, fortunately. The auto-tags show up on the site in white boxes alongside the gray boxes of tags that users add, and people can remove ill-fitting descriptors to help improve the algorithm.
But why Flickr never considered that it might want to have a human being monitoring these things before they go live to potentially outrage the world is unclear, especially since the program does not appear to be that popular in the first place.
A look at Flickr’s “Ideas” page turns up post after post decrying auto tags. “Please do NOT add random tags,” one user says. “Flickr should not interfere with an artist’s work like this.”
“Auto tags are really not helpful,” writes another. “What is the point of adding ‘outdoors’ to nearly all of my pictures, and ‘sky’ to nearly half of them? I now have aircraft tagged as ‘bird’ and an airship as ‘street sign.'”
Other users point toward the larger issue of Flickr instituting new features and changing layouts without warning, as well as their inability to opt out of auto-tagging. Site owners are certainly welcome to try new options, but users prefer a little more dependability, if not direct input.
And they certainly don’t want know-it-all robots telling them what the subjects of their pictures are.
Via: The Guardian