Surprises in the Fine Print

Time for another trip [Far-out space music] into the Far, Far, Far-out Frontiers of Free Enterprise.

Today, spaceship Hightower takes you once again into the Lilliputian world of tiny print -- an obscure realm of product packaging where a keen eye and a magnifying glass can reveal that the product is not really delivering what you think it is. Thanks to Consumer Reports magazine for bringing these items into focus for us.

Let's start with something good to eat, like Havarti Spread. Yum, I love havarti cheese -- but, wait, the back of the box quietly informs us that this spread gives you a "havarti-type flavor." The cheese is actually cheddar. Ok, how about Chesapeake Bay Crab Cake Kit with white crabmeat? The package urges you to "treat yourself to this Chesapeake Bay delicacy." Only when you check the ingredient list do you find this note: "Crabmeat is a product of Thailand." Well, at least you get crabmeat. When you buy a box of Manischewitz mashed sweet potatoes, however, you probably would not notice the small type that whispers: "Contains no sweet potatoes." There is sweet potato flavor, but the product inside is "multipurpose white potato" flakes.

If you feel the need to shed a little light on products like these so you can read the fine print, don't trust the Philips light bulb company. It offers an 85-watt bulb for recessed floodlights, bragging on the package that this Philips 85-watter "replaces 100-watt" bulbs. Yes...but no. Squint at the back of the package and you learn that this bulb actually delivers only about 77-watts worth of light. So, technically, you could "replace" your 100- watt bulb with this one, but it really wouldn't be a replacement in terms of the light it put out.

This is Jim Hightower saying ... If this is confusing, consider the ad for a $500 bikini swimsuit that, in the tiny print, warns: "Should not be worn in the sun or water."

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:
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