Two Dudes & A World Wide Web

Ah, the World Wide Web. WWW. The latest computer acronym that has the digital planet abuzz and the rest of the world, well, wondering what it's all about. Is this complex latticework of intertwined computers a network nirvana? Or is it just another gimmick designed to boost computer sales and take us further away from the real world? Our two rookie cybernauts, having first installed America On-Line's "Web Crawler" software into their PowerMac, were determined to find out. From the outset, there were philosophical differences. One explorer was seeking utility (what are the Web's practical uses?); the other, pleasure (where are the pictures of the naked women?). Perhaps, they speculated, these values would meld in the infinite expanse of cyberspace. Then again, maybe not. To begin, our two heroes enter "Reno" into AOL's WebCrawler and are greeted with 367 sites that contain the term "Reno." They select Janet Reno: Abuses and Atrocities, a homepage that apparently involves an organization know as CAUSE, the "ACLU for patriots," and click open a letter from the father of Bobby Finjnje, "a 14-year-old boy who met up with Janet Reno's style of 'child protection.' " RV: Look, there's your pornography dude. Looks like Bible-toting Bobby was erroneously busted for pornography in Dade County, Fla., while Reno was attorney general. Brian: It doesn't say what kind of pornography. I guess it doesn't since it's obviously one-sided. RV: They apparently left the country after he was acquitted. This really isn't Reno though. Let's find Reno.The intrepid cybertravelers switch to Reno Brewing Company Quiz Game, where they are greeted with a poem: "Welcome, Welcome Weasles All! Play the game, drink 'till you fall. And should you choose to leave instead, bring lots of cheese and wine and bread!" Brian: Oh, look, a drinking game. RV: You should be good at this, dude. The first question is, "What year marked the introduction of the first pull-tab can?" Brian: 1965. RV: Wrong! It's 1962. Take a drink. Five drinks later, after earning a grade of F, our idiot savants search for another homepage. They select Today's Odds/Conway's, to check out the latest betting lines. RV: Look, it's got all the casinos. You have to call the sports books at the casinos. Here it says "Shaq $140, Hakeem even." Does that mean if Shaq beats Hakeem you get 140 to one? Brian: I think it means that if you bet $1,000 you win $140. RV: Then if Hakeem is even you don't win anything? Brian: That would be stupid. They return to the WebCrawler. RV: Let's go to the Paisley Brain Cells [a Reno-based band]. Oh, look, Chip's finally had the operation on his back. Brian: I wish we were more clever. RV: Dude, even technology has its limitations. Indeed, as our rebels without a clue have discovered, navigating the Web isn't as simple as they had first thought. Brian: Let's enter "union" and see what happens. RV: There it is, down below: Arkansas, California, District of Columbia. What does that mean? Brian: I can click on that, actually.He clicks on Arkansas, and it turns out "union" does not refer to the fact that all Hiltons outside of Reno are unionized, but just that various hotels are located near streets named "Union," like the San Francisco Hilton, which is on "Union Square." RV: Ah, I see. Didn't think they'd have that kind of info. Brian: Let's see if we can find Drew Martin, this bartender friend of mine who works at the Flamingo Hilton. Hmmm it says, "No hotels met your criteria in the directory." This is boring. Let's go back. They click on Firefest '95, The World Championship Chili Cookoff, or, as it is also known, Reno's "High Desert Hoo-Hah." RV: Dude. Look! Great bowels of fire! Brian: It says "bowls," dude. RV: Oh. Cool colors though. Brian: Buckwheat Zydeco is playing Saturday for free. RV: You like Buckwheat? Brian: He's OK. Brenda Storm likes him.What our lads are beginning to discover is that in cyberspace, no one can hear you yawn. As an advertising vehicle, a Web site or a homepage, whatever you want to call it, does seem to add a certain amount of depth perception-by clicking on an infinite number of windows, loads of information can be provided on any given product or service. As an entertainment vehicle, well, the search continues Brian is anxious about discovering the link to the so-called "blue highway," where digitized nudes float with pixelized grace. Disturbed that such a link may actually exist, RV suggests a detour to the Schwa Corporation's Web site at http://the After encountering difficulties, they enter "Schwa" into the Web crawler and land at the corporations Web site. Bill Barker's trademark alien head (except this one has flames shooting out of it) appears on-screen above an ominous warning: "THIS IS A TEST OF THE EMERGENCY GRAPHICS SYSTEM. IF THIS WAS AN ACTUAL EMERGENCY, DO YOU THINK ANYONE WOULD TELL YOU?" RV: Look! Letters to Schwa! That guy says he wants to have sex with Suzanne Vega! And this one's a paranoid UFO abductee from Germany! Schwa is huge in Europe, ya know. Here's a message from some professor whose students fell for Schwa's artificial solar eclipse experiment. I think they think Schwa is real. Brian: It isn't? RV: They've got everything stacked here, like cells in a Borg spaceship. Maybe Schwa is real. Brian: I'm getting a headache, dude. RV: What is this, an effects loop? We just keep going round and round. Brian: It's a cyber 8-track.Thinking the Schwa corporation's Web site might be some sort of insidious cybertrap designed to keep them glued to their computer screens for eternity, Brian enters "sex" into the Web crawler and gets 2,421 hits. That's more than 2,000 Web sites specifically designed for the sexual connoisseur. Brian: AH HAAAAA! THIS IS IT! "HOT WET IN YOUR FACE SEX RED HOT SEX WET IN YOUR FACE SEX HOT WET " RV: Oh, my god. Brian: "INDEX TO MR. PEEPERS BUTT-NEKKID CELEBRITIES." RV: Oh, my god! Brian: Cindy Crawford! RV: Claudia Schaeffer. It seems Mr. Peepers requires some sort of proof that our explorers are 21, in age, if not in IQ. Repeated proddings of Cindy, Claudia and countless other "butt-nekkid celebrities" fail to bring pictures on-screen. Mrz. Peepers is ejected and Trifixion's Kingdom, another sex site, is selected. The results are the same. In the meantime, at least one of our crew has begun to have serious reservations about their mission's sudden downturn. RV: I've changed my mind about this, dude. Are you sure it's the right thing to do? Brian: Shut up. An S&M page is called up. There are no pictures, but detailed descriptions of "golden showers," "breath control" and other bizarre sexual practices are given. At another site called "Eve's Garden," sex toys are sold. They select "More Hot Sites," and gradually, it begins to dawn on them: The files containing images are of immense proportions, requiring serious download time. Patience, it seems, is one of cybersex's more exhalted virtues. They wait and wait and wait Brian: Here it comes! It's coming! It's coming! RV: Dude, I'm outta here.Undaunted by RV's mutiny, Brian continued on, seeking to penetrate further into the depths of cyberspace. He was last seen huddled in front of the PowerMac, coaxing the machine to give it up, one byte at a time.

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
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