Here's Why the Texas Senate Race Is More Nuanced and Complex Than You Think

When Texas Democrat Beto O’Rourke decided to challenge far-right incumbent Republican Ted Cruz for his seat in the U.S. Senate, he knew he would be fighting an uphill battle. Texas has a reputation for being deeply Republican, and Cruz had defeated Democrat Paul Sadler by 16% when he was elected to the Senate in 2012. Last week, however, a Texas Lyceum poll showed Cruz ahead of O’Rourke by only 2%—which is a statistical dead heat. And according to a recent Quinnipiac poll, O’Rourke has an advantage among female voters: men preferred Cruz by 20%, but women preferred O’Rourke by 6%. 

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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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