Can Netflix Tell If You’re Gay?


“Can AI tell if you’re gay just from your viewing choices? A forthcoming radio documentary, by BBC reporter Ellie House, suggests this may be possible. House began investigating the predictive power of big data algorithms as a result of Netflix recommending her LGBTQ+ content a full six months before she began questioning her own sexuality. 

How did Netflix know? One possibility is that sexual orientation is innate, and there are cultural ‘tells’ discernible to a pattern-recognising machine with a large dataset. Another possibility is more disorienting: that the relationship between identity and cultural preferences is uncertain, but orientation may not, in every case, be wholly innate and immutable. This would be anathema to older generations of gay rights advocates, for whom ‘sexual orientation’ was understood as innate, and underwritten by the pursuit of real-world sexual encounters.”


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