Understanding the Witch-Hunt Against Obama

America is in the midst of a 21st-century witch hunt. A loose-knit network of right-wing ideological strategists, Republican Party operatives and media demagogues generate the odious smears. Their goal is to stymie the Obama administration’s policy initiatives, capture Congress in November and unseat President Barack Obama in 2012. This propagandizing echoes the scapegoating of liberals, union and community organizers, peace activists, gay people, Jews and people of color during the anti-communist witch-hunts of the McCarthy era.

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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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