Etsy shoppers browsing the site for Asian artwork this afternoon may have been greeted with something else: recommendations for topless photos of Asian women. The issue was first pointed out by an Asian American artist on Twitter, who The Verge is not naming due to harassment concerns, who had erotica recommended above one of their listings.
The Verge was able to find several listings where Etsy placed recommendations for erotic photos of Asian women above or below entirely unrelated products with “Asian” in the title. A cute black-and-white illustration of a girl in bed has a row of erotic photos placed above it as recommendations. A collage of illustrations of Asian women has a section beneath it titled “You may also like” that features two rows primarily containing erotic photos of Asian women. A listing for “Asian Beauty” photo filters includes a suggested row beneath it for “asian women bikini,” which also includes an erotic photo.
The issue spills out into searches on the site. Searches for “Asian photo” or “Asian women photo” deliver results featuring a number of erotic images, whereas searches for other races or skin tones do not.
Etsy removed the erotic photos from three listings after being contacted by The Verge.
“We began working to correct this issue as soon as it was brought to our attention,” an Etsy spokesperson said in a statement to The Verge. “We have added new controls around the types of listings that surface as recommendations. We will continue to work on improving our algorithm to avoid surfacing recommendations where not relevant or appropriate.”
After a white man in Atlanta killed eight people including six Asian women earlier this month, there’s been widespread discussion around the fetishization of Asian women in America. Variety wrote about Hollywood’s decades-long role in depicting Asian women as sex workers. Vox spoke to a scholar about the history of the hyper-sexualization of Asian women, including a federal law used to discriminate against Asian women under the pretense of preventing sex work. And CNN wrote about how that history makes Asian women “uniquely vulnerable to violence.”
The reflection comes during a spike in anti-Asian attacks in the United States. Earlier this month, the group Stop AAPI Hate reported 3,800 hate incidents over the past year.
Etsy CEO Josh Silverman wrote last week that Etsy “stand[s] united with the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community.” Silverman said Etsy planned to offer bystander training to all of its US employees, work with its Asian Employee Resource Community “to amplify AAPI voices,” and donate $500,000 to two groups supporting AAPI rights and justice. Etsy also vowed to continue monitoring its marketplace for items that “promote hate or violence.”