How Liberal Mosque Defenders Are Playing into the Hands of the Islamophobes

In the past weeks, we have seen how liberal defenders have responded to the "fear and trembling" that the mere idea of a mosque induces with a series of disavowals. Instead of challenging the racist assumptions that buttress such rhetoric, many liberals have decided instead to offer "clarifications." Time and again, the public is reminded of the fact that Park51 is not in fact a mosque but an Islamic community center that promotes interfaith dialogue.

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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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