Incident 312: Startup's Accent Translation AI Denounced as Reinforcing Racial Bias

Description: A startup’s use of AI voice technology to alter or remove accents for call center agents was scrutinized by critics as reaffirming bias, despite the company’s claim.

Suggested citation format

Doria, Catharina. (2021-08-15) Incident Number 312. in Lam, K. (ed.) Artificial Intelligence Incident Database. Responsible AI Collaborative.

Incident Stats

Incident ID
312
Report Count
4
Incident Date
2021-08-15
Editors
Khoa Lam

Tools

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Incident Reports

Buzzy Silicon Valley startup wants to make the world sound whiter

Silicon Valley startup Sanas has a lofty goal: to make call center workers sound white and American, no matter the country they're from. And that's just the beginning of their grand plan.

The voice tech company’s website features a photo of…

Silicon Valley Startup Sparks Controversy Over What Critics Call ‘Racist Software'

A Silicon Valley startup is sparking controversy for its, what critics call, “racist software.”

Palo Alto's Sanas uses artificial intelligence to alter or remove accents that you may hear when calling into a tech helpline. 

"And to get the …

Startup uses AI to transform call center workers' accents into "white voice"

Have you seen the 2018 movie Sorry to Bother You? It's about a young black man who gets a job at a call center and has trouble making sales until he adopts a "white voice."

A new company called Sanas seems to have based its business plan on…

This startup will make you sound whiter and it sees nothing wrong with that

The premise of Sanas is pretty simple: remove your accent in real-time. It’s created with businesses like call centers in mind, where callers deal with racial biases based purely on their voice profiles. But Sanas doesn’t just want to make …

Variants

A "variant" is an incident that shares the same causative factors, produces similar harms, and involves the same intelligent systems as a known AI incident. Rather than index variants as entirely separate incidents, we list variations of incidents under the first similar incident submitted to the database. Unlike other submission types to the incident database, variants are not required to have reporting in evidence external to the Incident Database. Learn more from the research paper.

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