'60 Minutes' Segment Excludes Black Women Who Led Racial Bias Research


60 Minutes is facing intense scrutiny after it ran a story examining racial bias in facial recognition software. The segment highlighted the stories of two Black men in Detroit who were wrongly accused of committing crimes due to racial bias within facial recognition systems.

To dive further into this subject, the CBS program interviewed the two Detroit residents, a lawyer at Georgetown University and a representative from the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Interviewing the two Detroit residents and discussing the legal ramifications with an attorney is necessary for the segment. Meanwhile, 60 Minutes interviewed a computer scientist from NIST because the organization introduced a "landmark" study on racial bias in facial recognition two years ago. However, experts in the field were quick to point out that a trio of Black female researchers issued studies on the same topic prior to the "landmark" study from NIST in 2019.

Scientists Joy Buolamwini, Timnit Gebru, and Inioluwa Deborah Raji have emerged as leaders in the realm of studying racial bias within facial recognition systems. In 2017, Buolamwini put together a study called "Gender Shades" that was later referenced in the "landmark" study from NIST. One year later, Buolamwini co-authored a paper with Gebru on the same subject that is also widely cited by other scientists. Along the way, Raji has stepped into offer her expertise when needed and become a frequent collaborator with the two other scientists.

Given the accomplishments of the three Black women, it would come as no surprise if CBS decided to interview them for this story. According to Buolamwini, she was contacted to be interviewed, but CBS canceled the interview abruptly and without explanation. Raji called CBS's actions "deliberate" and Gebru called the story a "complete erasure of our work."

After learning of what took place, a number of their colleagues stepped in to voice their frustrations. From across the country, journalists, scientists and viewers recognized Gebru, Raji and Buolamwini as leaders in this field.

"We black women waste so much time and energy trying to fight the erasure of our work, words and ideas," Karen Attiah of the Washington Post tweeted.

CBS has declined to comment on the matter or retract the story.

Photo Credit: Getty Images


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