Automatic soap dispenser sparks 'racism' outrage after footage shows it doesn't work for dark-skinned people

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An automatic bathroom soap dispenser has sparked outrage online after it was filmed failing to detect the hand of a dark-skinned person.

Chukwuemeka Afigbo, Facebook’s head of platform partnerships in the Middle East and Africa, posted a video of a white man waving his hand under the dispenser and getting soap on the first try. However, when a darker-skinned man does the same, no soap is released. 

A white paper towel is then waved under the dispenser, which works. 

Afigbo tweeted: “If you have ever had a problem grasping the importance of diversity in tech and its impact on society, watch this video.”

Some Twitter users blamed the lack of diversity in tech industries for the problem:

But others said it was nothing to do with race, blaming a technological error and labelling the backlash “crazy”:

Soap dispensers like this one tend to work by measuring infrared light radiating from nearby objects. Body heat emits infrared radiation.

The dispenser sends out an invisible light from an infrared LED bulb and activates when a hand reflects light back to the sensor. 

But darker colours absorb light rather than bounce it back, preventing the soap from being released. 


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