Post-election America will still be deeply divided

Image via Screengrab.

No matter who wins the election, Americans should not expect to see a heightened sense of national unity or higher levels of satisfaction with the political system in the months to come. A preponderance of evidence suggests that today's political and ideological divisions have been building for so long that no single candidate or policy agenda could possibly reverse them. Congressional gridlock, eroding public trust, and partisan polarization are not media creations; they are observable and measurable realities. Tackling these issues will be a long, arduous task—if it can be done at all.

Polling numbers point to a decades-long slide in trust of political institutions and a popular perception of dysfunction in Washington. Only 20% of respondents now say that they trust the federal government to do what is right "just about always" or "most of the time," down from a peak of 77% in the early 1960s and down from the 21st-century high of 54% in the weeks after 9/11. Even during the anti-Washington zeitgeist of the Watergate era, 42% of Americans expressed high levels of confidence in Congress, but in 2020 only 13% did.

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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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