Borodin Not Beyoncé

Do you like Borodin? I do.

This is why I’m disgruntled that the algorithms do not consider my tastes when they make content recommendations to me.

Did you know the algorithms are racist? Yeh, they are. Safiya Umoja Noble has done great work to explain all in her book Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism.

I noticed years back when I was running the Facebook advertising campaign for a UK based clothing company targetting UK based customers. Tried as we might to target people based largely on a set of possible shared hobbies, preferences and values, we couldn’t understand why the only people seeing and responding to the ads were people with Yoruba surnames. I’m Yoruba, that’s how I know.

We didn’t get any English sounding surnames, no Asian sounding surnames, no European, whatever; you name it. Not even people from the other 250 ethnic groups in Nigeria. Let’s not even begin to talk about surnames from the rest of West Africa. I’m guessing surnames from the whole of the continent would have been too ambitious.

Was it because I had a Yoruba sounding surname? I let it slide.

However, Instagram also failed to impress me when I joined. Most of what I saw was Rhianna related content in the search feed for the first few years. I wasn’t even following Rhianna or anyone in that genre. Now I get Beyoncé recommendations, and I have been for the past few months. I love Beyoncé, but I want to see Borodin, Not Beyoncé in my feed.

Borodin is dead, you say. That’s the reason you’re giving me. Well, what excuse does YouTube have then?

Ok, I admit it. I enjoyed every episode of BKChat London, just like YouTube’s algorithms said I would. But I was kinda hoping I was also going to see more content like the videos I was actively engaging with. The kinda stuff Casey Neistat, Marie Forleo, Gary Vaynerchuk and Oprah were producing – unless you’re saying BKChat London is like Oprah?

The algorithms need fixing. So that black people are appropriately represented and understood. Any organisation that controls the algorithms and says they promote diversity, equality, and inclusivity needs to fix stuff. Maybe start with getting more black people on your payroll. Or, here’s an idea; how about starting with this – there are black people out there who want Borodin, not Beyoncé.

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