Netflix wants you to know that the company does NOT use race or skin color to determine how to market the same movie to different ethnicities.
“Reports that we look at demographics when personalizing artwork are untrue,” a Netflix spokesperson said in an email.
The spokesperson added: “We don’t ask members for their race, gender or ethnicity so we cannot use this information to personalize their individual Netflix experience. 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.”
Netflix is responding to Twitter users who noted that marketing materials sent to black users were featuring images of black actors, even when those actors had minor roles, while white users were getting images of white actors.
One example was the film Like Father. While a white Netflix subscriber said a promotion featured pictures of stars Kelsey Grammer and Kristen Bell, a black subscriber said hers were adorned with Leonard Ouzts and Blaire Brooks, who play much smaller parts.
Netflix is known for its personalized recommendation system that tries to put the right movie and TV titles in front of the users that will appreciate them most, but it said in a blog post last year it was also rolling out “artwork personalization.”
Netflix described the new technology by using a Good Will Hunting example: For those who have watched many romantic comedies, the artwork would show Matt Damon and Minnie Driver; and for those who prefer straight comedy, the artwork would focus on Robin Williams.