New Legislation Clarifies Confusion Around Lawful Syringe Possession

Governor Paterson recently signed into law a measure that will make New York communities safer and healthier by promoting syringe access to prevent the spread of HIV and hepatitis C. By reconciling inconsistencies in state law regarding syringe possession, the new law should eliminate police harassment and arrests of drug users who legally posses new and used syringes. Ideally, it will go even further by improving the relationship between police and users, which is now characterized by extreme fear and distrust as a result of the war on drugs and people who use them.

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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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