Mary Bought a Little Spam

If you go to the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC you can listen to a recording of the first telephone message. There is a scratching voice saying what at first seems to be "Mary had a little lamb." However, if you listen more closely I think you'll agree that it actually says "would you like to buy a case of Spam." This was the first telemarketing call. This is the ugly truth that AT&T, Sprint, and MCI won't tell you in their million dollar advertisements that tell you have to save 75 cents per month. The phone companies must be getting kickbacks from telemarketers or else they would be running ads that people really cared about. Call waiting, call forwarding, caller identification? What we really need is a "nuke the telemarketer" button. Or how about a "transmit an ear infection to the telemarketer" feature? Do I sound angry? Who isn't? I'm betting you could get the Pope to throw a punch at a telemarketer. You could walk into a room full of people discussing flesh eating viruses and satanic cults and stop the conversation by bringing up telemarketing calls. Interrupt people's dinners and they get violent. In any language or religion, telemarketers are annoying. Fewer people actually admit to buying something from a telemarketer than admit voting for Nixon. Telemarketing has turned the telephone into an instrument of torture and made the Home Shopping Network look respectable. Yes, I realize that some of your loved ones may either work in telemarketing now or have in the past. We all have our black sheep and closet skeletons to hide. I sold flower seeds and candy bars door to door as a child. However, I was able to take a hint once the first 10 people slammed their doors in my face. All I'm saying is that there are obviously people out there who enjoy and use these calls and we should be able to get the phone company of our choice to set our call forwarding directly to their homes. Over the past several months I have been discussing this dilemma with the mythical "friends and family" AT&T is always talking about and found that there are people even more livid than me about this topic. These are a few of their suggestions Delay tactics and self sacrifice: There appears to be one school of thought that goes something like "the longer I can keep them on the phone, the more innocent people I can save from the same spiel." Among the tactics used are pretending to put the telemarketer on hold, asking them to call back later, and the old "I've got to go to the bathroom in the middle of the call" trick. Needless to say, the real trick is that you never return to the phone. My favorite related story though, is telling the caller "I'm busy now, could you call back later when I'm not home?" Electronic warfare: There are various paraphernalia on the market now that will only allow incoming calls to people who have a special code to you phone, but probably the most popular method is just the simple answering machine. More answering machines have been sold to ward off telemarketers than to anxious dating teenagers and student loan fugitives put together. Striking back: Someone told me that they used a bull horn to blow into the ears of the offending telemarketer. A note to the wise. You will more likely hurt your own ears than the ears of the telemarketer since the telephone system has a built in guard against loud noises. Counter Intelligence: Someone else told me that they use their caller identification feature to gather phone numbers of telemarketers. Since some telemarketers work out of their homes, this person then called them back at inappropriate times. The problem with this is that telemarketers are starting to get caller identification blocking. Of course I'm sure it is just a matter of time before someone invent caller identification block block. The classics: Personally I'm waiting for low cost video phones so I can just moon telemarketers.

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Imagine you've forgotten once again the difference between a gorilla and a chimpanzee, so you do a quick Google image search of “gorilla." But instead of finding images of adorable animals, photos of a Black couple pop up.

Is this just a glitch in the algorithm? Or, is Google an ad company, not an information company, that's replicating the discrimination of the world it operates in? How can this discrimination be addressed and who is accountable for it?

“These platforms are encoded with racism," says UCLA professor and best-selling author of Algorithms of Oppression, Dr. Safiya Noble. “The logic is racist and sexist because it would allow for these kinds of false, misleading, kinds of results to come to the fore…There are unfortunately thousands of examples now of harm that comes from algorithmic discrimination."

On At Liberty this week, Dr. Noble joined us to discuss what she calls “algorithmic oppression," and what needs to be done to end this kind of bias and dismantle systemic racism in software, predictive analytics, search platforms, surveillance systems, and other technologies.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up