Not My Type: Automating Sexual Racism in Online Dating

Not My Type: Automating Sexual Racism in Online Dating



In the world of online dating, race-based discrimination is not only tolerated, but encouraged as part of a pervasive belief that it is simply a neutral, personal choice about one’s romantic partner. Indeed, it is so much a part of our inherited wisdom about dating and romance that it actually directs the algorithmic infrastructures of most major online dating platforms, such that they openly reproduce racist and sexist hierarchies. In Not My Type: Automating Sexual Racism in Online Dating, Apryl Williams presents a socio-technical exploration of dating platforms’ algorithms, their lack of transparency, the legal and ethical discourse in these companies’ community guidelines, and accounts from individual users in order to argue that sexual racism is a central feature of today’s online dating culture. She discusses this reality in the context of facial recognition and sorting software as well as user experiences, drawing parallels to the long history of eugenics and banned interracial partnerships. Ultimately, Williams calls for, both a reconceptualization of the technology and policies that govern dating agencies, and also a reexamination of sociocultural beliefs about attraction, beauty, and desirability.

About the authors

Apryl Williams is a jointly appointed Assistant Professor at the University of Michigan in the Department of Communication & Media and the Digital Studies Institute. She is also a Senior Fellow in Trustworthy AI at the Mozilla Foundation and a Faculty Associate at Harvard University’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society. Her research has been published in Big Data & Society, Ethnicities, Sociology of Race and Ethnicity, and Social Media & Society, among others.

“[A] troubling investigation of structural racism in online dating platforms…. Williams’s highly accessible narrative is made extra intriguing by the liberal inclusion of users’ own words sharing their intimate thoughts.”

Publishers Weekly

“From the automation of white beauty standards to the chilling prevalence of racist abuse in private messages, Williams reveals the harms created when racism, technology, and romance interact.”

—Angéle Christin, author of Metrics at Work

“This book changes how we think about the sociology of the ‘real world’ in dating by taking seriously the online world where so many of us find love forever or just right now. Apryl Williams shows us a new, better way to do digital sociology, and her writing makes for a compelling read.”

—Jessie Daniels, author of Nice White Ladies



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