During the past week, many in the deaf community made complaints to Netflix on Twitter on how they captioned their shows — saying they did not caption exactly what people said, that they would leave out words or phrases or “bleep” profanity although it was audible.
A key person who sparked this is Rogan Shannon, a Deaf man. Here are his tweets from Sunday.
Tweet by @shan_no_says (24 Jun): “Okay, @netflix. I want to know why you don't caption every single word. I can see what people are saying not matching up with the captions. Also, pardon me, but DO NOT FUCKING CENSOR PEOPLE. I want to know what is said word. for. word. That's the whole fucking point of captions.”
Tweet #2: “If someone is speaking AAVE, DO IT WORD FOR WORD. Don't "clean it up," that's insulting. If someone isn't speaking "perfect" English, don't fucking change it. If they umm, uhh, stammer, I WANT THAT TOO. I. Want. Word. For. Word.”
One pointed out that under FCC Federal Communication Commission requirements, the CC is supposed to “mirror” any slang or grammatical errors that are intentionally used.
Tweet by @blakereid (24 Jun):
[Image of FCC standards under "Accuracy," with highlighted sentence -- "If slang or grammatical errors are intentionally used in a program's dialogue, they shall be mirrored in the captions."]
Text: "This also falls short of the FCC’s caption quality standards and may be a violation of the rules depending on the program. The FCC takes complaints-—and Netflix is also under a consent decree with @NAD1880—(link).
I asked Rogan what made him tweet. See his video response. (It is captioned)
Why did you decide to call out Netflix now?
Rogan: It was fine but recently it started being horrible. Luke Cage, Queer Eye, and other shows that started new seasons. The captioning was horrible. This is the first time and it is really bad. That is not okay. We need good captioning access. This screw-up is why I decided to say something now.
What has the response been like?
I was floored when it went viral. I didn’t expect that. It shows that it is a big problem and people do not like this. So I am happy… that I did tweet.
What steps should be taken to improve it?
For whoever hires the people who do the captions, they need to be more responsible. When they get the files, they should check it to make sure it matches. Don’t just put it and assume it is good. Check and make sure it is accurate. If not, tell them they aren’t doing their job, it doesn’t match, you need to fix it so it is accurate.
A lot of people pointed to captioning “edits” on the show “Queer Eye.” The cast often uses slang or abbreviations, but people say the captioning doesn’t match, so deaf people miss out.
One of the stars of the show, Karamo Brown, said something.
Tweet by @KaramoBrown (27 Jun): "Reading everyone’s comments breaks my heart. I don’t know how much power I have but know, the next time I’m at Netflix I’m going to bring up this issue internally & wont stop until something changes. Deaf & HOH people should have the same experience as everyone else! #TypoFixed"
After Karamo's tweet, Netflix responded on Thursday night.
Tweet by @Netflixhelps 28 Jun): "We’ve heard about the caption issues on the service, specifically for @QueerEye. After looking into it, there's lots of dialogue missing from the Fab 5 that shouldn't be. We're fixing it. In some cases, we do bleep incidental profanity from our unscripted series."
One can see that this movement started within the deaf community, then had the support of hearing allies, then once a celebrity spoke up, Netflix responded. Hopefully they will make changes.
I asked Rogan what he thought of this. He said, "I’m glad they’re looking into it and hopefully they do follow through. I also want to know what steps they’ll be taking to prevent this happening again."
Netflix tweeted a couple more times to thank the activists and to acknowledge other issues.
Tweet by @Netflixhelps (28 Jun): "Thank you to @karamobrown and all the fans who helped bring this to our attention.
"Delivering a great experience to our deaf and hard of hearing members is very important to us. We’ve also heard from fans about a similar concern in Marvel’s Luke Cage season 2 — we’re looking into this now"
Karamo then paid a tribute to the deaf community.
Tweet by @KaramoBrown (28 Jun): "They heard you." [With emojis of ILY emojis in four different colors and a smiley face with waving hands]
This isn't the first time Karamo acted as an advocate. In April, he took to Instagram to say he was committed to subtitling his social media videos for his deaf and hard of hearing friends.
Instagram Vlog Post by @karamobrown (16 Apr): [Captioned video of Karamo speaking] Post reads,"Friends, #AsACulture I’ve noticed that when it comes to supporting people living with a disabilities... we often don’t think how we can show up or support them unless they are in our family or are a close friend. So I’m committing to making small changes in my life to support my disabled brothers and sisters. You will now see my videos captioned for my deaf or hard of hearing friends. I would love for you to post other ways we can support our brothers and sisters living with a disability. #Support (PS: In the video I say both “disabled people” and “people living with a disability.” I’ve been told that there is a debate over which to use. I used both to make sure everyone feels included depending on your preference. Just trying to educate myself so I can support.")
I asked Rogan what made him tweet. See his video response.