Campaign '08: An Empty Race Run on Personality?

You have all read the latest polls by now, I'm sure, and know that the race is currently anywhere from tied to McCain being ten points ahead. This is a somewhat surprising development to those of us who had thought this race couldn't be lost because of the political fundamentals: a terribly unpopular Republican president, a Republican party in disgrace, a failing economy, a useless expensive war and an elderly, warmongering candidate from a bygone era. It was hard for me to see how even the Democrats could lose an election under those circumstances, even if they ran an inanimate object with a piece of algae as a running mate. But the built in advantage has disappeared. The race is back at parity, and it's a letdown, particularly after all the months of excited talk about expanding the map, landslide and realignment etc. The race can certainly still be won, but the playing field is different than most observers expected.

For a time it was considered an act of heresy to even suggest that running a campaign purely on the basis of when you "came to Obama" might not hold up over the long haul. (And that's not to say that running the campaign on "the sisterhood of the traveling pantsuit" would have been any more successful --- the same problems existed for Clinton.) Democrats decided to take their shoe-in and turn it into a nail biter because they wanted a huge symbolic victory for either African Americans or women. I took pride in that --- it's a bold gamble. But I've never thought there wasn't a cost.

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.

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