How Obama Won Ohio

In retrospect, the single most important fact of the 2012 presidential campaign was that Barack Obama led steadily in Ohio from the late spring (when the Republicans settled on Mitt Romney as their nominee) through Election Day. Only in the aftermath of his strong performance in the first presidential debate did Romney briefly surge into a tie with Obama in Ohio, but even that situation quickly proved ephemeral, as Obama soon regained his narrow lead there. In view of the fact that Ohio generally leans Republican, and especially so in close presidential races like this one, Obama’s narrow but consistent lead in the Buckeye State during 2012 appears all the more remarkable – and ultimately decisive.

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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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