News and Insights

PRIDE 2024: AI, bias, and the fight for representation

June 3, 2024

As both a tech PR professional and a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I’ve witnessed first-hand how technology and advocacy intersect to drive positive change. As we enter Pride Month this June, it’s especially important to recognise how technology has provided so many marginalised groups with platforms to share their stories and connect, enabling the creation of supportive communities in ways previously unimaginable. But with innovation comes risk. As we embrace technology, we need to prioritise inclusion and ensure that the representation of all marginalised communities is not only accurate, but respectful.  

Modern approaches to PR and marketing have significantly expanded the reach and impact of LGBTQ+ advocacy efforts. By amplifying relevant voices through multiple channels, often-overlooked issues, challenges and achievements are now gaining mainstream visibility. 

AI and the authentic representation of LGBTQ+ individuals 

A particular challenge, especially with the increased adoption of artificial intelligence (AI), is ensuring authentic representation of LGBTQ+ individuals in these campaigns. Recent advancements have cemented generative AI’s role as a game changer, poised to transform every sector from financial services to agriculture. The PR and marketing industry is no exception. Tools like ChatGPT, Bard and Midjourney are already transforming how communications professionals analyse data, delivering specific targeting strategies and improving personalised outreach for specific audiences. 

Despite its promise, there is concern that as new technologies become more involved in the ideation and execution of PR and marketing campaigns, they could reinforce stereotypes, including those related to LGBTQ+ issues. In its current form, AI lacks a nuanced understanding of LGBTQ+ experiences and identities and this can lead to inaccurate depictions, undermining the progress we’ve made to date. 

Decades of advocacy and activism have seen great progress in dismantling harmful typecasts in favour of more authentic LGBTQ+ representation in the media. Historically, LGBTQ+ characters were  depicted negatively across TV, film and advertising – the classic predatory, tragic, promiscuous, or comical stereotypes and of course, the perpetually confused teenager. These clichéd representations just increased stigma and kept common prejudices on repeat, making things tricky for many people looking for acceptance. 

Thankfully, we’ve since seen a positive shift in media representation – and the significance of this can’t be overstated. Authentic (and diverse) portrayals normalise LGBTQ+ experiences, improve understanding and promote equality. In short, they provide relatable role models that don’t rely on outdated ‘Carry On’ punchlines.  

Back to our industry, there is a risk that overreliance on generative AI may unintentionally reverse progress and trigger a cultural regression (of sorts). As AI systems are trained on existing data, they can reproduce and even amplify existing biases, leading to significant implications if left unchecked. For example, UNESCO and Wired have highlighted that certain generative AI platforms produce regressive outputs for LGBTQ+ individuals, reinforce binary gender norms and overlook the layers of diversity within the LGBTQ+ community. 

To make generative AI work for LGBTQ+ communities, it must be trained to understand our diverse experiences. This requires using inclusive data and continuously monitoring for biases. But it’s not just about the technology. Critical-thinking marketing and PR teams, who understand LGBTQ+ issues, are vital to guide AI-powered marketing strategies and preserve authenticity. Untrained campaign development teams, who are oblivious to sensitivities around LGBTQ+ issues, could inadvertently let damaging language, images or other content slip through.  

Our vital role as gatekeepers 

In today’s world, any insensitive or inaccurate content can lead to a swift backlash online. And let’s face it, no one wants to be the company that goes from hero to zero with one poorly thought-out post. Or the marketing team behind that company, for that matter. 

To mitigate risk, some marketers may be tempted to play it safe and distance themselves from inclusive LGBTQ+ marketing strategies altogether, aiming to appeal to the perceived majority instead. But this can alienate LGBTQ+ consumers and their allies, ultimately impacting the bottom line given the LGBTQ+ community’s purchasing power, as explored in my previous blog. 

I have no doubt that technology will continue to drive meaningful change across LGBTQ+ advocacy – but this all rests on our ability to use it cautiously. Last year, I explained why inclusion must be a year-round effort for brands. This year, I encourage my fellow comms professionals to acknowledge our important role as gatekeepers. Ask the tough questions, hold brands accountable and ensure that the narratives of LGBTQ+ and other marginalised communities are always handled with care. 

TAGS: Technology

POSTED BY: Richard Scarlett

Richard Scarlett