Google pauses Gemini’s image tool for people after anti-‘woke’ backlash

Tech giant says model is ‘missing the mark’ after controversy over failure to depict white people.

Google has faced a backlash over its new AI model Gemini [File: Richard Drew/Google]

Google has temporarily stopped its Gemini AI model from generating images of people following a backlash over its failure to depict white people.

The search engine giant made the announcement on Thursday after Gemini users shared images created by the model that mostly featured people of colour, including scenes from history that only involved white people.

“Gemini’s AI image generation does generate a wide range of people. And that’s generally a good thing because people around the world use it. But it’s missing the mark here,” Google said in a post on X.

“We’re already working to address recent issues with Gemini’s image generation feature,” the tech giant added. “While we do this, we’re going to pause the image generation of people and will re-release an improved version soon.”

Gemini-generated images circulated on social media in recent days prompted widespread mockery and outrage, with some users accusing Google of being “woke” to the detriment of truth or accuracy.

Among the images to attract criticism were a depiction of four Swedish women, none of whom were white, and scenes of Black and Asian Nazi soldiers.

“It’s embarrassingly hard to get Google Gemini to acknowledge that white people exist,” Debarghya Das, the founding engineer of enterprise search startup Glean, said in a post on X accompanied by a number of images generated by Gemini.

AI models have in the past also faced criticism for overlooking people of colour and perpetuating stereotypes in their results.

Google, which has been racing to catch up with rival OpenAI since the launch of ChatGPT in 2022, has suffered a number of setbacks in its rollout of AI products.

Last year, the tech giant tech apologised after its AI chatbot Bard wrongly stated during a demo that the James Webb Space Telescope took the first pictures of a planet outside the solar system.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies