Buzzfeed’s AI-generated Barbies blasted for featuring blonde Asians, cultural inaccuracies

Buzzfeed’s AI-generated Barbies blasted for featuring blonde Asians, cultural inaccuracies
via Buzzfeed
Ryan General
July 18, 2023
Buzzfeed’s list of AI-generated images of Barbies representing different countries is facing accusations of racism and cultural inaccuracies. 
AI Barbies: The Buzzfeed article, titled “What AI Thinks Barbie Would Look Like Around the World,” was published on July 6 and has since been deleted following intense social media backlash.
The controversial list consisted of images portraying Barbie in 195 countries, all generated by the popular AI program Midjourney.
Acknowledging the biases and stereotypes exhibited in AI models, Buzzfeed reportedly included a disclaimer clarifying that the depictions should not be seen as accurate or comprehensive portrayals of human experiences.
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Problems raised: The disclaimer, however, did not deter social media users from pointing out the AI-generated Barbies’ problems, including racial stereotypes, inaccurate depictions of cultural outfits and the outright whitewashing of some races. 
One Twitter user highlighted that the Vietnamese Barbie’s traditional clothing, known as áo dài, had its collar positioned to symbolize death.
“So not only did you AI dipsh*ts offended Vietnamese cultures, you also offended East Asian culture as a whole,” the user wrote.
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Several Asian Barbies, including those representing Singapore, the Philippines and Thailand, were portrayed with blonde hair instead of dark hair typically associated with Asians.
“Literally all the east asian ones are just white girls in yellowface,” one Twitter user wrote.
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“They turned Thailand Barbie Russian,” said another user.
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“Misspelled my country name and gave us this blonde barbie?? Hell noooo she ain’t a Filipina,” lamented another user.
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Meanwhile, a few Middle Eastern Barbies were depicted wearing a ghutra, a traditional headdress for men.
“Why is the Kuwait Barbie wearing a male headdress!” one Twitter user wrote.
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Buzzfeed was also blasted for depicting South Sudanese Barbie with a gun and Lebanese Barbie standing on rubble. 
“No joke the bg looks like my neighborhood on lebanon,” wrote one Twitter user.
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“Can you believe that Midjourney piece in Buzzfeed originally gave South Sudan Barbie weapons?” another user asked.
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Algorithmic bias: According to recent studies, AI-generated images often reflect the biases present in the datasets that the models were trained on.

 
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