Democracy in the 2010s: The decline of Kanye West-ern civilization

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At some point nearly at the beginning of November, an as-yet-unidentified prankster replaced a photo of Uncle Ruckus from "The Boondocks" with a picture of Kanye West wearing a red "Make America Great Again" hat. Twitter responded with a tidal wave of ROFLMAO emojis at the subtlety of this commentary; you could only find it if you Googled “Boondocks characters,” something few people would have done for any series that’s been off the air for more than five years.

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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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