How a Barbara Walters Segment on the Afterlife Vilified Arabs and Muslims

The veteran media critic Jack Shahen tells us 90% of Hollywood films depict Arabs negatively, reinforcing “a consistent pattern of dangerously hateful stereotypes” in his book, Reel Bad Arabs, which examined 1,000 American movies produced since 1896. An equally in-depth study needs to be conducted for television news, where the vilification and stereotyping of Arabs and Muslims has been similarly consistent.

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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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