A Long Dark Night: Gun Violence Romanticized and the New Batman Movie

Early morning July 20, we cheered the new Batman movie as a thousand miles away a crowd watching the same film screamed as a gunman, barged in, flung a smoke bomb and began shooting. In San Francisco, we left the cinema laughing at the stupid politics of The Dark Knight Rises. In Aurora, Colorado, 12 were killed and 59 wounded as the shock spread to the nation in the morning news. Already one truth stands out; the shooting is not isolated but like a mirror reflects the dark logic of the film, itself a reflection of America’s romance with violence.  

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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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