How coverage of the Barr memo shows the media learned nothing from its 2016 failures

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After sprinting out to erroneously announce that special counsel Robert Mueller's two-year investigation had delivered ”total exoneration” for Trump, news outlets are now busy walking it all back as it becomes increasingly clear that the press was willingly duped by the administration. Released on March 24, Attorney General William Barr's skeletal, four-page summary—essentially a press release—in no way should be viewed as a definitive synopsis of Mueller's 400-plus page report. With news that some players on Mueller's normally tight-lipped team are privately grumbling that Barr has misrepresented the Russia report to the public, and that the report may contain far more ”alarming” evidence of obstruction of justice than Barr first suggested, journalists once again stand exposed, guilty of naïvely accepting the word of an official working for an administration that lies about everything.

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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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