Netflix has a way of presenting you with shows that you might like based on movies and TV shows that you have watched before. Now the streaming giant has been called out for shuffling episode orders of certain shows based on…your sexual orientation.
The issue of this very specific personalization of streaming interests first came up when Lukas Thoms of Out in Tech noticed that episode order of Netflix’s animated anthology Love, Death & Robots changes with each person. He posted a side by side comparison of his episode order for the series and his friend’s. On his account, the first episode on the list is “Sonnie’s Edge” which features a lesbian storyline while his friend’s list is ” Beyond the Aquila Rift” which features “explicit hetero sex.”
“Just discovered the most INSANE thing,” Thoms tweeted. “The ORDER OF THE EPISODES for Netflix’s new series Love Death & Robots changes based on whether Netflix thinks you’re gay or straight.”
Netflix responded on Twitter: “We’ve never had a show like Love, Death & Robots before so we’re trying something completely new: presenting four different episode orders. The version you’re shown has nothing to do with gender, ethnicity, or sexual identity — info we don’t even have in the first place.”
Thoms did a deep dive into this interesting issue and found out his other gay friends had the same experience. “We’ve known for a while that Netflix personalized the marketing of their shows based on sexual orientation (trailers, cover images etc) but it’s next level weird to change the actual experience of watching it,” he wrote.
After a string of tweets and responses of people jokingly saying “Netflix thinks I’m gay!” Thoms came to the conclusion that “apparently the episode ordering is just a 100% random A/B test that doesn’t involve any ML. Identity-based recommendations are still a good discussion to have, in this case it was just random!”