With so many people on this planet – 7.4 billion and counting – it’s been said that we each have at least one doppelgänger walking around Earth. If you’re lucky, you’ve got more than one doppelgänger. Ted Cruz is one of the lucky ones. Why? Because Cruz has at least five *confirmed* look-alikes – and those are just the humans.
Ever notice how on some social platforms like Twitter or Instagram that you yourself are mysteriously unable to crop your display images on your own? That’s because Twitter prefers to let their algorithms make the decision. Over the weekend users on Twitter discovered the surprising dangers of letting algorithms crop your own images.
Education tech researcher Colin Madland drew attention to the issue while speaking out about how the video-calling program Zoom, often crops the head out of his black person coworker while on calls.
It didn’t take long for Madland and other users to discover that Twitter’s AIs use discriminatory equations to prioritize certain faces as well. In short, the social platform’s AIs prefer white faces over Black ones.
In response to the discoveries, a Twitter spokesperson acknowledged that the company was looking into the issue “Our team did test for bias before shipping the model and did not find evidence of racial or gender bias in our testing. But it’s clear from these examples that we’ve got more analysis to do. We’re looking into this and will continue to share what we learn and what actions we take,” they stated.
Of course, Madland’s discovery is nothing new. In 2019, test results from the National Institute of Standards and Technology revealed that some of the strongest algorithms online were much more likely to confuse the faces of Black women than those of white women, or Black or white men. “The NIST test challenged algorithms to verify that two photos showed the same face, similar to how a border agent would check passports,” Wired points out. “At sensitivity settings where Idemia’s algorithms falsely matched different white women’s faces at a rate of one in 10,000, it falsely matched black women’s faces about once in 1,000—10 times more frequently. A one in 10,000 false match rate is often used to evaluate facial recognition systems.”
Still, it didn’t take long for users on the platform to ask what other physical preferences Twitter has.
Turns out the AIs prefer Ted Cruz with large anime breasts over a normal-looking Ted Cruz.
The user who tested the image of Cruz, found that Twitter’s algorithm on the back end selected what part of the picture it would showcase in the preview and ultimately chose both images of Cruz with a large anime chest.
It’s nothing new that Twitter has its massive problems.
For a platform that so controls and oversees so much of what we consume and how we now operate, it’s scary to know how Twitter chooses to display people with different skin tones. The round of jokes and Twitter experiments by users has only revived concerns on how “learning” computer algorithms fuel real-world biases like racism and sexism.
Hollywood actress Alyssa Milano has long been using her platform to creatively advocate for political change in America. In the past, she’s even called on women to partake in a sex strike in response to the onslaught of abortion ban bills that swept the nation. More recently, she’s taken to calling out the elected officials whose careers are most benefitted by the National Rifle Association (NRA). The Congressperson who received the highest donation from the NRA and other gun-rights organizations is none other than Texas Republican Ted Cruz.
The two have been spitting fire at each other via Twitter for the last few weeks. All of it culminated in an actual, real-live, live-streamed meeting between the two Tuesday morning. Why was it live-streamed? Because Milano wanted to make sure “the American people can hear your bullshit 1st hand.”
Alyssa Milano told Ted Cruz that part of the reason she wanted to meet was to make sure he was a human being. Literally.
“That is why this meeting was so important to me,” she told him during the live stream. “I wanted to look at you in the eye and know that you really are a human with a heartbeat.” Ted Cruz started the meeting by telling Milano that he was a fan of “Who’s the Boss?” and “Commando,” while Milano started by letting Cruz know his politics on gun control “has made you almost like this caricature of a villain.”
The two talked for more than an hour on gun control, with Milano beginning the conversation by imploring, “I’m asking you, begging you, to have the courage to lead.” In the room was also Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter was murdered during the Parkland shooting.
Cruz didn’t make any revolutionary statements throughout the meeting, arguing that merely having a civil discussion is a triumph.
“This is a divided time. This is an angry time. … I think it is beneficial for is to have a human conversation,” Cruz said. “I also hope that just seeing people on different places on the spectrum, treating people with civility and humanity, that is contagious.” Instead of agreeing to introduce or urge the Senate to discuss new gun control laws, Cruz instead wanted to “focus on policies that would really stop these crimes.” Cruz claims to be leading the charge on preventing mass shootings in America by proposing harsher prosecutions of gun cases and making background checks more “accurate.”
Cruz and Milano agreed to meet last week, after tweeting jabs at each other over their stances on gun control.
We hear that a lot, right? The “God-given right” to own guns in America. Cruz decided to respond to Milano, tweeting, “it is of course not the right to a modern-day firearm that is God-given but rather the right to Life & the right to Liberty. Essential to that right is the right to DEFEND your life & your family.”
Cruz gave a lengthy (for Twitter) response to Milano:
He went on to say, “The right to self-defense is recognized repeatedly in the Bible, eg Exodus 22:2: ‘If a thief is caught breaking in at night & is struck a fatal blow, the defender is not guilty of bloodshed.’ (Note, though, verse 3 says it IS murder if during daylight (ie, not self-defense). The Declaration of Independence acknowledges our rights thusly: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” And, for that reason, the Second Amendment provides “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, SHALL NOT be infringed.” It wasn’t to protect people’s ability to hunt, or to shoot target practice, but to defend their lives, their homes & their families. Stephen Willeford exercised that fundamental right when he risked his own life to stop the Sutherland Springs murderer, saving countless others as a result.”
Just like that, the meeting was born in resentment and frustration but seemed to end in civil resentment and frustration.
After the meeting, Milano tweeted, “He was gracious. I’m unsure if it changes anything. But appreciative for the opportunity to bridge the divide with civil, meaningful discussion.” Cruz described the meeting as “productive and respectful.” Basically, nothing noteworthy really happened except for that Alyssa Milano gave Ted Cruz a hug. What is noteworthy is that civil discourse cannot sway the NRA-lined pockets of Ted Cruz.