'Unlawful abuse of power': These 3 cities just sued DOJ over 'anarchist' designation

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When the U.S. Department of Justice declared New York City, Seattle, and Portland, Oregon "anarchist jurisdictions" last month and threatened to withhold federal funding, many progressive residents of the cities—especially New Yorkers—responded with derisive humor. But to leaders in the three Democratic-run cities, the designation is no laughing matter, and on Thursday they sued the DOJ in a bid to thwart the Trump administration's effort to hold back what could amount to billions of federal dollars.

The cities' federal lawsuit (pdf), in fact, calls the prospect of the administration's withholding of critical funding during the coronavirus pandemic "deadly serious," as well as "offensive to both the Constitution and common sense" and "an oxymoronic designation without precedent in U.S. history."

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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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