Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning have advanced to such levels that now they can predict our interests, schedules, and even sexuality better than we do. While some celebrate technological advancements, many are concerned about their interference in our personal and sexual lives. Companies are increasingly using technology to infringe upon our privacy and intimacy.
Sexuality heavily impacts companies’ decisions regarding the content they display, spanning advertisements, videos, songs, and shows for users. Take Netflix as an example. LGBTQ+ individuals seek content reflecting their experiences, aiding self-discovery and cultural understanding. As Netflix aims to recommend the most fitting content from its extensive library, it may seek to comprehend users’ sexual orientations.
There is a recent rise in cases where people found out they are LGBTQ+. Their social media feeds started showing strange suggestions that their friends or family members of the same age group and backgrounds were not getting.
A similar incident happened to BBC reporter Ellie House. In the article, she starts by telling us that she realised that she was “bisexual” in the “second year of her University”, but Big Tech have known it for several months.
She says that she used to watch Netflix a lot at that time, but her feed was filled with series tagged LGBTQ.
“However, at that time I was watching a lot of Netflix and I was getting more and more recommendations for series with lesbian storylines, or bi characters.”
She narrates further that her friends who were of similar age, and background and had similar streaming history had never recommended these strange titles.
“These were TV series that my friends - people of a similar age, with a similar background, and similar streaming histories - were not being recommended, and had never heard of.”
She eventually clicked on one of the titles and it was a popular series among the LGBTQ+ community, “You Me Her”.
“One show that stuck out was called You Me Her, about a suburban married couple who welcome a third person into their relationship. Full of queer storylines and bi characters, it has been described as TV’s “first poly-romantic comedy”.”
She said now other platforms like Spotify and TIkTok had also started recommending her LGBT content.
“It wasn’t just Netflix. Soon, I had spotted similar recommendations on several platforms. Spotify suggested a playlist it described as “sapphic” - a word to describe women who love women.”
“After a couple of months on TikTok, I started seeing videos on my feed from bisexual creators.”
After a few months, she finally realised that she is bisexual.
“A few months later, I came to the separate realisation that I myself was bisexual.”
After analysing all these activities on her social media, she asks herself “What signs had these tech platforms read that I myself hadn’t noticed?”
Netflix and other tech giants like Meta and Google have hundreds of millions of users. They have trained their Machine Learning programs over the years on the data of these users, they can predict with almost 100% accuracy your activities based on your previous interactions with their platforms, and now with the new technology, they can even know about your gender and other interests.
Ellie House argues in the article that she has never seen a LGBT series how Netflix was able to suggest to her those titles?
She answers in the article that, it is true she had never saw any LGBT tagged series, but she had click or search for titles related to the tag. That’s how Netflix came to know about her interest and started suggesting her those strange titles.
Netflix did a pretty good job at their work of picking out the best titles for Ellie. But a question rises. Could Netflix’s suggestion lead a straight person to become bisexual or lesbian?
Written by Mayank Vikash
Published on Sunday 20th August 2023, at 17:06 IST
Last updated Sunday, August 20, 2023, at 17:08 IST