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Pinterest, The Knot, and Brides Will No Longer Promote Plantation Weddings

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  • Pinterest and The Knot, popular sites used for wedding planning, agreed to stop promoting content and venues that romanticize slave plantations. 
  • The decision was made after the civil rights advocacy group Color of Change penned a letter to the companies explaining the pain and insensitivity behind glamorizing properties once used to brutalize people. 
  • Brides magazine has since also agreed to enact a similar policy, though sites like Zola said promoting such content does not violate their discrimination policy.

Criticism of Plantation Weddings 

Two of the biggest internet platforms used for wedding content and planning, Pinterest and The Knot, are changing their policies to stop promoting any wedding content that romanticizes slave plantations. 

Plantation weddings have become very common in the wedding industry, however, they are often criticized for glorifying sites that were once used to enslave and brutalize millions of black people. 

Celebrities like Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds still face criticism for hosting their 2012 wedding at Boone Hall Plantation in South Carolina. In addition to being a popular wedding venue, the property also offers history tours of its original slave cabins.

Other venues have been blasted for using decorative language that critics say minimizes the painful history of the locations. For instance, some properties have been described as “breathtaking” scenes with an “elaborate past,” or were said to have “a touch of southern charm.”

Policy Changes 

The decision to implement policy changes comes at the urging of the civil rights advocacy group Color of Change. The group sent letters to Pinterest and the Knot Worldwide, which owns The Knot and Wedding Wire, asking the companies to stop promoting plantations altogether. 

“The decision to glorify plantations as nostalgic sites of celebration is not an empowering one for the Black women and justice-minded people who use your site,” the letter, reviewed by Buzzfeed News, read. 

“Plantations are physical reminders of one of the most horrific human rights abuses the world has ever seen,” the letter continued. “The wedding industry routinely denies the violent conditions Black people faced under chattel slavery by promoting plantations as romantic places to marry.”

Pinterest responded to the letter with their own announcement, saying, “Weddings should be a symbol of love and unity. Plantations represent none of those things. We are grateful to Color of Change for bringing attention to this disrespectful practice. We are working to limit the distribution of this content and accounts across our platform, and continue to not accept advertisements for them.”

Pinterest has already started moderating and limiting plantation wedding content on its platform that appeared in search recommendations and notifications. It is also working to de-index Google searches for plantation weddings that direct to their site. 

Users call still search “plantation weddings” and similar terms on the site but they will be warned that some of the results may violate the site’s policies.

Source: Pinterest

Meanwhile, the Knot said it was working with Color of Change to prohibit vendors on its sites “from using language that romanticizes or glorifies a history that includes slavery.” Vendors who do not follow that rule will be removed, the company said.

“Color of Change brought an issue to light about the way venues with a history of slavery describe their properties to couples,” the Knot said in a statement. “We’re grateful to Color of Change for bringing this issue to us and for partnering with us to help educate our vendors on how to respectfully market their businesses to all couples.”

The Knot clarified that plantations will still be able to list themselves as venues. Their new guidelines are simply designed to ensure that vendors aren’t using language such as “elegant” or “charming” when referencing history that includes slavery. 

The language policy will apply to all venues listed on the Knot, not just ones that market themselves as plantations. A representative from the Knot told Buzzfeed New,  “You can imagine there could be former plantations that maybe have changed their names to manors or farms.”

The Knot’s new guidelines are expected to be officially released in the next few weeks as they continue to comb through the current vendors listed on their site. 

Color of Change Reached Out to Other Wedding Content Giants 

Along with the Knot and Pinterest, Color of Change also sent letters to Zola, Martha Stewart Weddings, and Brides. The group said they specifically called on these platforms to make a change because millions of couples turn to them for not only wedding inspiration but also information about potential vendors. 

Color of Change also argued that because these wedding planning platforms don’t profit directly from weddings themselves, they might be more motivated to hear their concerns. 

A spokesperson for Color of Change called Pinterest and the Knot’s efforts an “extremely massive step.” Following the news of two platform’s changes, the spokesperson added that Brides also reached out and requested a meeting.

Brides later issued a statement to Bustle saying, “Brides is an inclusive place where everyone can feel celebrated. Content glorifying plantations is not in line with our core values. We have removed these references and are actively working with Color of Change to evolve our guidelines to help ensure all our couples are supported, respected and inspired.”

As for the other platforms, in a statement to BuzzFeed News, Emily Forrest, a communications manager for Zola responded with: “After reviewing this complaint we determined it did not violate our non-discrimination policy. While we may not always agree with couples on all of their wedding details, we also respect their right to choose where and how they want to get married.”

As of now, Martha Stewart Weddings has not responded to the letter. 

See what others are saying: (Buzzfeed News) (The Washington Post) (Bustle)  

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Twitter to Investigate Auto-Crop Algorithm After Accusations of Racial Bias

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  • Twitter users believe they discovered a racial bias in an algorithm the platform uses to automatically select which part of an image it shows in a photo preview.
  • Many argued that the auto-cropping tool showed a white bias after testing the theory with photos of Black and white people, cartoon characters, and even dogs. 
  • However, others who tested the theory generated results that did not support this idea. Regardless, most users admit that these experiments have their limitations and agree that the current results at least show that this is something worth looking into.
  • The company released a statement saying it tested its system for bias in the past but admitted it needs to conduct further analysis of it. Online, Twitter employees seemed to welcome the public discourse and the company promised to share its results as well as further actions it may take.

Potential White Bias 

Twitter responded to concerns over its automatic cropping algorithm Sunday after users believed they discovered a racial bias in the tool.

In 2018, Twitter began auto-cropping photos in its timeline previews to prevent them from taking up too much space in the main feed and to allow multiple photos to appear in the same tweet. To do this, the company uses several algorithmic tools that focus on the most important part of the picture, like faces or text. 

However, users recently began to spot issues with the algorithm. The first person credited for highlighting a potential problem was PhD student Colin Madland. He made his discovery while highlighting a different racial bias he thinks he found on the video-conference company Zoom. 

Madland tweeted that when his Black colleague uses a virtual background on Zoom, his head is erased. When he uploaded examples to show this happening to his Black colleague and not himself, he noticed that Twitter was only showing his own face in its preview. 

Soon after, others followed up with more targetted experiments. Cryptographic and infrastructure engineer Tony Arcieri, for example, tweeted out two long images with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel and Former President Barack Obama. 

The two photos have the politicians stacked on top of each other in different orders but with white space in between them. The experiment showed that Twitter would focus on McConnell, no matter what order the photos were stacked in.

Another user found that the algorithm even focused on McConnell when two photos of Obama were present in a single stack.

A similar white preference appeared in examples of Black and white men in suits, Simpsons characters Lenny and Carl, and even black and white dogs. 

Examples That Don’t Support White Bias Theory

Others looking into this theory of a white bias found results that did not support the idea. 

For example, one user found that photos of Obama were cropped for the preview over photos of Donald Trump. 

Still, some researching the trends noted that these experiments do have their limitations and are likely influenced by tons of other factors. Some believe the algorithm recognized high profile figures or considers brightness and contrast, among other photo elements.

Twitter’s Chief Design Officer (CDO), Dantley Davis, even suggested that the choice of cropping sometimes takes brightness of the background into consideration.

However, ohers found examples that rejected that idea. Regardless, all these tests did a lot to convince people that there was something worth looking at here, including Davis, who has been experimenting himself.

He’s not alone in his research. In fact, plenty of other Twitter users have been going to great lengths to track their results as they try to study what is going on.

Twitter Promises to Investigate 

On Sunday, a Twitter spokesperson eventually released a statement admitting that the company had work to do.

“Our team did test for bias before shipping the model and did not find evidence of racial or gender bias in our testing,” the company explained.

But it’s clear from these examples that we’ve got more analysis to do. We’ll continue to share what we learn, what actions we take, and will open source our analysis so others can review and replicate.” 

Davis also isn’t the only employee that has appeared to welcome all of this public discourse. The company’s Chief Technology Officer, Parag Argawal tweeted, “This is a very important question. To address it, we did analysis on our model when we shipped it, but needs continuous improvement. Love this public, open, and rigorous test — and eager to learn from this.”

See what others are saying; (The Next Web) (The Guardian) (Mashable

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Perfume Brand Apologizes for Replacing John Boyega in the Chinese Version of an Ad He Directed

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  • Jo Malone London, a perfume and candle brand, apologized to its global brand ambassador John Boyega after it reshot his personal advert without him for the Chinese market.
  • Last year, Boyega conceived, starred in, and directed a commercial for the band, which showcased his friends and family and was shot in his diverse hometown on Peckham, London.
  • Without Boyega’s knowledge, the company replicated the concept with Chinese actor Liu Haoran and did not feature a single Black person in the remake. 
  • After backlash, Jo Malone London apologized and said, “The concept for the film was based on John’s personal experiences and should not have been replicated.”

Boyega’s Commercial 

The perfume and candle brand Jo Malone London apologized to actor John Boyega after it replicated the personal advert he made for the company without him for the Chinese market.

In 2019, the brand named the Star Wars actor its first male global ambassador. Under the role, Boyega shot an advert for the company based on his roots and personal experiences. 

The short film was called, “A London Gent,” and according to several reports, it was his creative concept and a project he directed. It showcased him enjoying time with his real-life friends and family in his diverse hometown of Peckham, London.

“There’s a mixture of things you see me do in the film, you see me in a professional environment on a film set, then with family and it’s about breaking free of the concept of ‘going back or returning to your roots’ but more about the roots existing with this new side of my life,” he said of the commercial last year in an interview with Women’s Wear Daily.

Chinese Remake

The commercial was well received and actually won Best Media Campaign at The Fragrance Foundation Awards this year. Still, the brand decided to essentially replicate the commercial for the Chinese market without Boyega’s knowledge or participation.

Instead of just using Boyega’s original ad, it replaced him with Chinese actor Liu Haoran, star of the hugely popular Detective Chinatown film franchise. Boyega’s friends and family were replaced as well, which means there was not a single Black person included in the Chinese ad.

Though it’s not totally identical, it’s clear the commercial reused the same concept –minus the diversity elements. It even replicates some specific scenes like one where the camera zooms into Boyega’s eye and another where he rides a horse while his friends ride bikes.

On top of all that, the Chinese ad is also called “A London Gent,” and according to The Hollywood Reporter, Boyega only found out about this after it was put on Twitter.

Boyega hasn’t officially commented on the issue, but he’s definitely aware of the backlash. He retweeted one user who shared his ad saying, “Now, this man needs to be properly compensated for the thievery! No apology is good enough.”

He also retweeted a post showing the Chinese ad for comparison, as well as an article from The Hollywood Reporter on the topic. 

That article includes a statement from the brand which reads: “We deeply apologize for what, on our end, was a mistake in the local execution of the John Boyega campaign. John is a tremendous artist with great personal vision and direction. The concept for the film was based on John’s personal experiences and should not have been replicated.”

Joe Malone also apologized to Haoran, saying he was not involved in the conception of the Chinese ad.

“While we immediately took action and removed the local version of the campaign, we recognize that this was painful and that offense was caused,” it continued.

We respect John, and support our partners and fans globally. We are taking this misstep very seriously and we are working together as a brand to do better moving forward.”

Boyega’s Past Experiences

This is not the first time Boyega has sparked discussions about racism in China and the entertainment industry. In 2015, when “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” was released, Boyega’s character was resized to be significantly smaller on the Chinese version of the movie poster.  

In a recent GQ interview, Boyega also criticized Disney, saying nonwhite characters were pushed aside in the Star Wars franchise while white characters were given more nuance. 

“What I would say to Disney is do not bring out a Black character, market them to be much more important in the franchise than they are and then have them pushed to the side. It’s not good. I’ll say it straight up,” he said at the time.  

As for Jo Malone, it has pulled the Chinese advert, but it’s unclear if Boyega’s relationship with the brand will continue. 

See what others are saying: (Insider) (Variety) (The Hollywood Reporter)

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AmazonBasics Products Dangerous, Start Fires & Explode: Report

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  • A report by CNN has found that dozens of AmazonBasics items are dangerously flawed, leading to fires and explosions.
  • 1500 reviews were found across 70 items citing dangerous flaws in the products between 2016-2020, despite Amazon saying many of these items were investigated and found to be safe.
  • Currently, dozens of items are still available on the site that have been flagged by users as dangerous and potential fire hazards.

AmazonBasics Burn

Ever seen a listing for a common everyday item on Amazon and thought, “that price is too good to be true?” Well, that may be the case. CNN reported on Thursday at least 70 items that are part of Amazon’s AmazonBasic line are fatally flawed; particularly electronics which are reported to have started hundreds of fires.

One story from Wethersfield, Connecticut features a young man who was burned after being awoken by a chair in his bedroom that was on fire. Firefighters determined that a white AmazonBasics USB cord used to charge his phone had shorted and started the fire. Other items sold under the AmazonBasics label — which was set up in 2009 and sells thousands of everyday items for cheap — have been reported in reviews to catch fire. A microwave sold under the label has over 150 reviews describing safety concerns over the device, notably pointing out its proclivity to catch fire.

CNN obtained a few defective devices from customers and sent them off to a lab in Maryland to be tested and find out why it happens so often. That research was cut short because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but in the case of the burning microwaves, initial findings revealed that they featured a fatal design on a panel that covered a heating device and could start fires.

Other common items that were reported to have caught fire include power strips and car chargers. Overall, according to CNN, 1,500 reviews between 2016 and 2020 by US customers identified safety concerns from AmazonBasics products, with 10% of reviews specifically mentioning the items catching fire.

“Safe to Use”

Amazon’s initial response to the report is that some of the items identified were investigated and found to be “safe to use.”

We take several steps to ensure our products are safe including rigorous testing by our safety teams and third party labs,” the company said in a statement to The HIll. “The appliance continues to meet or exceed all certification requirements established by the FDA, UL, FCC, Prop 65, and others for safety and functionality.”

“We’re continuously refining our processes and leveraging new technologies to ensure that AmazonBasics products are safe for their intended use. We want customers to shop our products with confidence, and if there’s ever a concern, you can contact our customer service team and we’ll promptly investigate,” The company added in a blog they posted as a response to the CNN report.

Currently, about 30 items with three or more reviews that identified dangerous flaws remain on the site. This could lead to large legal problems for the company. In the past, various courts have ruled and upheld that Amazon is not liable for defective items sold by third-party vendors on the platform. However, AmazonBasics are branded in-house items (although Amazon doesn’t manufacture these items). 

Being in-house items may mean that unlike third-party vendors, Amazon possibly is not shielded by the same protections and could be liable for the destruction caused by said devices.

See What Others Are Saying: (CNN) (The Hill) (The Verge)

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