The big Facebook outage offers a behind-the-scenes look at how the social network's AI 'sees' your photos and interprets them for blind users

INSIDER | 7/3/2019 | Business Insider
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An image outage on Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp showed how Facebook's AI automatically tags your photos behind the scenes.

The tags sparked anger and amusement on Twitter, as people shared how their photos were interpreted — or misinterpreted.

Twitter - People - Tags - Mundane - Person

On Twitter, people shared some of their tags, which included the mundane ("one person, beard") and the disconcerting ("people standing, hoes, and indoor").

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Image - Outage - Facebook - Instagram - WhatsApp

An image outage across Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp gives a behind-the-scenes look at how Facebook's AI sees your photos.

The outage, which started on Wednesday and affected Facebook's 1.5 billion-plus daily active users and rendered Instagram all but unusable, stopped social-media images from loading and left in their place descriptions like: "image may contain: table, plant, flower, and outdoor" and "image may contain: tree, plant, sky."

Descriptions - Tags - Facebook - Intelligence - Interprets

These descriptions, or tags, show how Facebook's artificial intelligence interprets images.

On Twitter, people shared screenshots of how their photos were tagged. "To be fair, 'one person, beard' is pretty much a spot-on description of me," Zack Whittaker, an editor at TechCrunch, wrote.

So, what's going on?

Facebook automatically scans all photos on the social network with facial- and image-recognition software powered by AI to detect who or what is being pictured.

This is then used in...
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