The 'progressive prosecutor' movement is spreading — but unevenly

U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Aspen Reid

It is hard for prosecutors to let go of the prosecutorial identity, as seen by the numerous US politicians and pundits who use the refrain “as a former prosecutor” to lend themselves a veneer of additional authority, especially in an era where President Trump has seen many of his associates head to federal prison. But what happens when a city lets go of its prosecutor and her legacy? That prosecutor becomes a kind of ghost.

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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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