Netflix Inc. has denied that it is serving deceptive thumbnails based on the race of viewers just to get them to watch more content on its platform. The streaming service maintained that it is not tailoring promotions of movies and TV shows using misleading thumbnails. 

The Los Gatos, California-based company issued a statement to Bloomberg to address the criticisms it’s been receiving for its alleged dishonest marketing practices. “Reports that we look at demographics when personalizing artwork are untrue. We don’t ask members for their race, gender or ethnicity, so we cannot use this information to personalize their individual Netflix experience,” the streaming service stated. 

Netflix argued that it only has access to the viewing history of its clients, so its marketing materials are just based on that and nothing more. It also indicated that it is using thumbnails not only to improve the customer experience its app offers, but also to increase the amount of time its subscribers are spending on watching content on its platform. 

The complaints against Netflix surfaced online after some users noticed that they were seeing misleading thumbnails on Netflix. One of the concerned viewers was Stacia L. Brown, the creator of the podcast Hope Chest. Brown recently took to Twitter to ask if other users were also seeing thumbnails that appeared to have been tailored to appeal to the race of viewers.

Brown shared a screenshot of the thumbnail she got for the 2018 movie “Like Father.” The thumbnail featured the supporting black cast members of the film instead of lead stars Kristen Bell and Kelsey Grammer. Brown said the promotional material was seemingly generated to compel black viewers to watch the movie. 

Brown’s tweet has since received a lot of reactions from other Netflix users. Many agreed that the service was using a marketing strategy that’s tricking a lot of black viewers into watching content that only features black cast members portraying minor roles. Some are claiming that it’s not the same for them since the thumbnails change every week or so. Others simply blamed the issue on algorithms.

Netflix Netflix has denied claims that it is using deceptive thumbnails to trick subscribers into watching certain content. Photo: Getty Images/Pascal Le Segretain