Is the Internet Making You Lose Your Mind?

Let's face it: whatever expert opinion may say, we all know that the Internet is addictive. Of course, you can substitute "seductive" or "habit forming" to avoid the overused diagnostic buzzword, but have you ever noticed how often you visit your favorite site or check e-mail whenever you get stuck with a work-related problem or feel bored or restless or anxious or depressed? Relief is just a click away! Does this remind you of the cigarette break you used to take when you were still smoking, and for the same self-soothing reasons?

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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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