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MS COO explains racist slur in its software

It's sort of inadvertent racism by juxtaposition, you might say

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Microsoft COO Bob Herbold has written an open letter to customers explaining the "unfortunate and isolated situation" that has led to the company being sued over racist images in Microsoft Publisher. (MS in frame over racist slur) It would seem that Microsoft has an unfortunate problem with the way its Clip Art Gallery search function works. Says Herbold: "Due to the way the Clip Art Gallery search function works, users sometimes find images that do not appear to be related to the search criteria. For example, searching for images using the word "bell" returns images of bells and bell peppers. "Dog" returns images of dogs and hotdogs, while "sun" returns images of the sun, sunflowers, and sundials." With hindsight, this would appear not to have been a particularly smart 'feature.' Microsoft is being sued because, when you search for "monkey," one of the pictures produced is of "a young African American couple posing on playground equipment commonly called 'monkey bars.'" From what Herbold says fixing the problem, and any similar ones, mightn't be too difficult, because the search function is fairly basic. 'Monkey bars' is one of only 18 keywords assigned to this particular photograph, so the problem can be fixed simply by deleting that keyword. But on the other hand, that would mean that anybody actually searching for 'monkey bars' wouldn't find them. And because the search function is picking up on partial matches there's no doubt still scope for giving offence by juxtaposition - so maybe fixing it isn't that easy after all. Microsoft is indeed issuing a "tool" which deletes the keyword, and "We are instituting a new process for reviewing our Clip Art Gallery." That's going to be an extremely tedious job for a pretty large number of Microserfs. ®

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