Infectious disease expert warns about the politicization of COVID-19 vaccines

A CBS News/YouGov poll released over Labor Day Weekend found that only 21% of voters would get a COVID-19 vaccine this year even if it were available at no cost, down from 32% in July. One takeaway isn’t that Americans are turning into anti-vaxxers, but that they fear a rushed vaccine: President Donald Trump has made it clear that he wants to see a vaccine developed soon, preferably before Election Day. And Dr. Rochelle Walensky, head of infectious diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital, discussed her fears of a vaccine being politicized when she was interviewed by CNN on Monday.

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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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