Study supports the notion of “gayface”

Controversial study scientifically supports notion of ‘gayface’ — and no one seems to be OK about it 

Model and Property Released (MR&PR)

Can your face announce to the world, including people who might hold it against you, that you're gay? A new study says yes.




Tuesday, September 12, 2017, 11:43 AM

Gay rights groups have come out against a controversial study that found that sexual orientation can be read from people’s faces.

The implications for personal privacy are obvious regarding research by Stanford’s Yilun Wang and Michal Kosinski. The study used an artificial intelligence facial recognition algorithm and more than 35,000 pictures of men and women in a dating site who’d identified themselves as gay or straight.

The AI model correctly distinguished between gay and straight men 81% of the time, and gay and straight women with 71% accuracy. In short, the study scientifically supports the notion of gayface.

The study’s co-authors said they were “really disturbed” by their findings, “given that companies and governments are increasingly using computer vision algorithms to detect people’s intimate traits, our findings expose a threat to the privacy and safety of gay men and women.”

They’re not alone in their fears about findings that forever change the notion of privacy.

Since the study was published Friday and spotted by the Economist, GLAAD and the Human Rights Campaign have denounced the study as “junk science” and “dangerous.” They expressed concern that it could be used as a weapon against gays and lesbians. “Imagine for a moment the potential consequences if this flawed research were used to support a brutal regime’s efforts to identify and/or persecute people they believed to be gay,” HRC’s Ashland Johnson, director of public education and research, told the Washington Post. “Stanford should distance itself from such junk science.”

Indeed, the co-authors note the limitations of the study. They only used white faces and didn’t take people who were bisexual or transgender.

Wang and Kosinksi responded to critics by calling their response “knee-jerk.”

“It really saddens us that the LGBTQ rights groups, HRC and GLAAD, who strived for so many years to protect the rights of the oppressed, are now engaged in a smear campaign against us with a real gusto,” they said.

The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, which was to publish the study, is re-examining the research, reports The Outline.