The country with the largest population of black people outside of Africa is Brazil and they’re facing a major social problem: racism. Approximately 97 million people who identify themselves as being black or mixed are being marginalized. The racial biases faced by darker-skinned residents reflect in their quality of life; they are not only affected at the workplace, where they are paid 46% less than white people, but also on the internet.
Is ‘white tone’ the standard of today’s society? The organization that promotes human rights, Desabafo Social, questions this neglected assumption. What might seem like a negligible issue, the NGO identified a problem that has a negative impact on identity: inequality on the internet.
For a user to receive a desired image containing people of African-American origin, one needs to add the term ‘black’ within their regular search keywords. These unfair social issues urged the Salvador-based organization to join forces with Agência WE. Together they started the #SearchForEquality (or in Portuguese: #BuscaPorIgualdade) campaign, an experiment that asks companies with the largest online image libraries in the world a simple question.
Getty Images, Shutterstock, Depositphotos, and iStock, were all kindly invited by the NGO to join a discussion about their image search algorithms. The questions were addressed through a series of short films, which were posted on social media. Four companies were asked, four individual short films were created, smashing down their search algorithms.
Seeking human equality, the NGO put each brand to a simple test, using two sets of keywords, such as ‘black baby’/’baby,’ ‘black person’/’person,’ etc. As you may have already guessed, the generic terms displayed images related to white people only.
The only two companies that accepted the chat invitation were Shutterstock and Depositphotos. “Are you open for a conversation, Depositphotos?”, the association asked. The stock photo agency positively embraced the organization’s initiative, as they promised they would do their best to correct their system.
Shutterstock didn’t mind talking with the NGO either. The company responded that its content team is working to change their search algorithm. And, even though Getty Images and iStock decided to remain silent when asked why this happens, the real surprise came from tech giant, Google.
After Desabafo Social’s founder Monique Evelle met with the Director of Public Policy and Governmental Relations for Google Latin America, Pedro Less, the company agreed with the NGO’s arguments. Less stated that he will address this problem internally, so the company could look for a solution to change the search algorithms. Google’s intention is to provide accurate results to users, without the need of typing extra, and race-specific words.
The CCO of the Sao Paolo-based agency, Guy Costa, declared that the campaign’s goal is to “involve people and influencers to spread this story organically so that we can create a real change, in the name of equality. Change, in this case, starts with altering search algorithms.”
In less than 7 days from the launch of the campaign, there were over 5,000,000 interactions, all of which 100% organic.
Black people are, usually wrongfully, labeled as criminals. To show how the media makes us biased to see black people as the negative characters of today’s society, the Government of Paraná created a simple experiment. Simply titled as “The Image Test,” two groups of human resource professionals were asked about their opinion regarding a series of images. The first group was showed pictures with white people doing normal tasks. The second was asked to do the same, but this time the people in the images were black. The results were exposed in a video, stirring up an intense debate in Brazil. See how you would react for yourselves:
Agency: Agência WE
Client: NGO – Desabafo Social
Approved by: Monique Evelle
Creative VP: Guy Costa
Creative Direction: Guy Costa, Ana Castelo Branco, Ricardo Sarno, Luis Constantino
Copywriters: Vitor Medrado, Murilo Israel
Art Directors: Douglas Reis, Cristiano Rodrigues
Producers: Juliana Emeric, Lais Leleu
Production: Agência We
Motion Graphics: Amanda Campos, Ebson Clarindo
Audio: Cristiano Rodrigues