"God Hates The World", Sings Westboro Baptist

I hate to say it, but I'm glad for the existence of Westboro Baptist because Fred Phelps' church helps expose a hateful underbelly of parts of American Christianity : not even the "Christian right", because there are many in that tendency (which gets defined differently by different people) who would be quick to condemn Westboro Baptist for its hate-saturated protests at the funerals of Gay US service members killed in Iraq. But, Westboro Baptist represents the quintessence of a tendency within Christianity, mirrored no doubt within Islam as well, that presumes to know which societal groups and even which cities and entire geographical regions are slated for the wrath of divine destruction for alleged sins.

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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.

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