The Accused Toronto Killer Has Roots in the Online Misogynist Underworld -- But Does That Make Him a Terrorist?

Another day, another spate of violence at the hands of a misogynist. Multiple news outlets and journalists confirmed on Tuesday that Alek Minassian, the 25-year-old man accused of killing 10 people with his van in Toronto on Monday afternoon, had written a Facebook post linking him to an insular online community of misogynists who identify as "incels," short for "involuntary celibates." This was reportedly the only post on Minassian's Facebook page, posted shortly before the attack. (It has since been deleted.)

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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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