Using AI to determine queer sexuality is misconceived and dangerous

How do we know if someone is gay? A recent Stanford University studyhas claimed that Artificial Intelligence (AI) using a facial recognition algorithm can more accurately guess whether a person is gay or lesbian than human beings can.

The study has proved controversial not because of our apparent mediocrity in the face of computer algorithms, but because of its dubious methodology – among other things, its exclusive focus on white subjects and its exclusion of bisexual, transgender, and intersex participants. It also highlights the dangers AI poses to the “outing” of sexual minorities against their will, exposing people to possible discrimination.

We strongly object to the use of an algorithmic “gaydar” to predict a person’s sexual orientation and believe studies such as this are both misconceived and pose very real and present dangers for LGBTQI human rights around the world.

The ambiguity of gayness

The claim that AI can determine whether a person is gay or lesbian by assessing a photograph of their face presupposes that sexuality exists as a binary: you’re either gay or straight. Yet, some people are neither – for example, they may be attracted to people who identify as a third gender.

Moreover, while we are accustomed to using the term gay, its definition is somewhat elusive. If the term refers to particular kinds of sexual activity between men, then self-identified but celibate homosexuals present a problem, as do sections of the prison population who don’t identify as homosexual but have sex with men in prison, and those who participate in sex with men for money but don’t identify as gay. So what does a “gay” face reveal to an algorithm? If it’s not sexual acts, then is it sexual preference, queer sensibility, identity or something else?

However, this isn’t the most disturbing aspect of such studies. The greater concern lies with why we are so obsessed with knowing the causes of homosexuality in the first place. Read more via the Conversation