How the NRA Sabotaged the BackGround Checks System - and 3 Fresh Ideas That Actually Could Reduce Gun Violence

Since America’s instant check system for gun buyers went online in November 1998, the gun control movement and its allies in Congress have made the expansion of the system their  primary focus. The National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS)  was designed to be fast and easy. Licensed dealers call in a prospective gun buyer’s information to an FBI call center in Clarksburg, West Virginia, where checkers run the name through three separate computer databases of past criminal offenders and those adjudicated for mental illness. The process takes only a few minutes.

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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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