This Country Is All Too Ready to See Black Children as Criminals

There was clear evidence that a family member had been sexually abusing 13-year-old Catherine Jones and her 12-year-old brother, Curtis, for years. But no one helped them, and the two children were left to figure it out themselves. In 1999, Catherine and Curtis plotted to kill the abuser, as well as their father and his girlfriend, Nicole Speights, because the kids had come to believe the two were responsible for allowing the abuse to continue, according to USA Today. Curtis shot Speights with his father's handgun. Then the kids panicked, tried to cover up the killing, and ran off.

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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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