Netflix user anger over 'racial targeting' of movie posters

Lawrence Kim
October 22, 2018

Podcaster Stacia Brown asked her Twitter followers if "other black Netflix users" had noticed the service would "generate posters with the black cast members on them to try to compel you to watch?"

Black actors with small roles are appearing on viewers' recommended movie lists on the streaming giant.

In a blog published previous year, Netflix revealed it was launching artwork personalisation for its films and TV shows.

The comedy film Like Father features a predominant white cast, with the main characters played by Kelsey Grammer and Kristen Bell, who feature in one of the photos for the movie. "20 lines between them, tops", she said, describing a poster for the film "Like Father". There is however a second one depicting a brief scene that only features black actors Blaire Brooks and Leonard Ouzts, which seems to misleadingly suggest they play a bigger part in the movie.

But some black Netflix customers have complained that these posters are targeting them by ethnicity, as reported by The Guardian.

This was also apparent in the British film favourite Love Actually, which stars white actors Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson and Colin Firth.

Users first started posting snapshots of their recommendations on Twitter, enquiring with others as to whether they were having similar experiences.

But Netflix said their algorithm is based on personal behaviour during a user's experience. It's the dark side of marketing...

"We don't ask members for their race, gender or ethnicity so we can not use this information to personalize their individual Netflix experience", it said in a statement. "BUT ppl generally don't like knowing they're being treated different bcuz of their race esp. not in the comfort of their own homes tryna watch a movie", [sic] he tweeted.

Brooklyn-based filmmaker Tobi Aremu also told the newspaper: "It's beyond feeling duped".

"In their keenness to cater to black audiences, Netflix has overstepped the mark with this issue..."

"If we present that flawless image on your homepage (and as they say: an image is worth a thousand words), then maybe, just maybe, you will give it a try".

"But I DO feel to unnecessarily targeted to watch what their algorithm thinks I should be watching". 'The only information we use is a member's viewing history.' has contacted Netflix for further comment. "If it was me, I would be very upset".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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