This Election’s Teaching Our Kids Bad Habits

On the day before Easter, PEZ Candy USA had to cancel its annual egg hunt in Orange, Connecticut. Adults rushed the fields where the eggs and candy had been put out, pushing aside and trampling the little ones in a mad scramble to grab the goodies for their own children. Noses bled, tears were shed and next time—if there is one—PEZ will have to have lots of security guards on hand to keep the grown-ups from behaving like idiots.

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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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