Netflix Denies Serving Up Posters Based on Users’ Race

Streaming giant says it customizes artwork based on viewing history alone

The personalization of Netflix home pages does not extend to the race of the user, the streaming giant said on Thursday, denying user accusations to the contrary.

Writer and podcast host Stacia L Brown said that the icon on her account for the Netflix film “Like Father” was showcasing the black actors Leonard Ouzts and Blaire Brooks, as opposed to the film’s white stars Kirsten Bell and Kelsey Grammar.

“Other Black @netflix users: does your queue do this? Generate posters with the Black cast members on them to try to compel you to watch?” she wrote in a tweet last week.

In a follow-up tweet, she highlighted what appeared to be a similar pattern, with actor Chiwetel Ejiofor on the poster for “Love, Actually,” RJ Cyler in “Sierra Burgess Is a Loser” and Isiah Whitlock Jr. in “The Good Cop.”

Netflix has stated in the past that it tailors specific thumbnails displayed on the home page to each user, but the streaming giant said in a statement on Monday that it doesn’t take race into account.

“Reports that we look at demographics when personalizing artwork are untrue. We don’t ask members for their race, gender or ethnicity so we cannot use this information to personalize their individual Netflix experience,” a Netflix spokesperson said in a statement obtained by TheWrap. “The only information we use is a member’s viewing history.”

“In terms of thumbnails, these do differ and regularly change. This is to ensure that the images we show people are useful in deciding which shows to watch,” the statement said, echoing a Medium post last December in which the streamer explained how the artwork associated with each title is influenced by user history.

“The artwork may highlight an actor that you recognize, capture an exciting moment like a car chase, or contain a dramatic scene that conveys the essence of a movie or TV show,” the blog post read. “Someone who has watched many romantic movies may be interested in Good Will Hunting if we show the artwork containing Matt Damon and Minnie Driver, whereas, a member who has watched many comedies might be drawn to the movie if we use the artwork containing Robin Williams, a well-known comedian.”