The Scourge of "Identity Theft"

On the front page of the Washington Post this morning is a story about a competitive Presidential campaign in Virginia, with the emphasis placed on the Democrats' energetic drive to register hundreds of thousands of new voters. Pages later, the lead editorial notes one response, depressingly predictable, from the Chair of the Republican Party, Mr. Frederick. He has suggested with no basis whatsoever that prospective voters, contacted through registration drives, may face "identity theft." The Post calls it, correctly, "a classic attempt to suppress votes."

It is certainly that. And the Post omits mention of another feature of Frederick's suppressive gambit. He also called for an "investigation," well understanding that this word would creep into the press on his remarks and filter out into the electorate. It would suit him to have Virginians believe, as registration occurs, that an "investigation" is under discussion. He would hope that this, too, would cause just enough doubt to give some Virginia citizens, somewhere in the state, reason to turn away from a registration appeal.

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