Republican leader puts out racist coronavirus tweet and gets demolished in the process

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Screengrab

In lieu of doing their jobs to protect the American public, Republican Party officials are working very intensely to misinform the public, while also blaming China for COVID-19. One of the top GOP officials today is Republican Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California. You might remember his grotesque displays of fealty during the impeachment inquiry and trial of Donald Trump. If you know anything about Rep. McCarthy, you know that he will tow whatever party line Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump think up for him. And since the GOP’s brand these days is “Being racist assholes,” McCarthy decided on Monday to help out with the public health effort by tweeting out the government’s CDC.gov url along with this thinly veiled racist statement: “Everything you need to know about the Chinese coronavirus can be found on one, regularly-updated website:”

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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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