Saudi Arabia Bans Red Items in Anticipation of Valentine's Day

I can’t stand Valentine’s Day. It’s a fake holiday created with the sole purpose of selling a bunch of crap that ends up in the waste stream and getting people to spend money on things they don’t need. Like dinner and a movie.

Anyway, as much as I think Valentine’s Day is a racket designed to separate fools from their hard-earned, I am not calling for banning the holiday. I’m not calling for the elimination of the color red from the marketplace. I’m not patrolling the streets with legions of jack-booted thugs enforcing strict separation of unmarried males and females.

But Saudi Arabia is. Our ally in the desert, our buds from OPEC, are trying to obliterate the whole notion of Valentine’s Day from their oil wealthy yet backward country.

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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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