How Tom Morello Joins Optimism and His Music to Help Out Labor Unions

Tom Morello's been a righteous political musician since the beginning of his career -- after playing guitar in legendary rabble rousing rock band Rage Against the Machine, he continued the polemical thread in Audioslave, Street Sweeper Social Club (with stalwart political rapper Boots Riley of The Coup), and with his solo project, The Nightwatchmen. Clearly, his pro-labor stance is illustrated in the monikers of the latter two, not to mention his promotion of activism through culture. (See: his awesome, four-year-old foundation Axis of Justice, which unites popular progressive musicians with their fans for grassroots organizing.)

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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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