India officials target Rihanna and Greta Thunberg for showing support of Indian farmers’ protest

Image via Shutterstock.

Things in India just seem to be getting worse as officials resort to violence in response to the ongoing farmers' protest occurring nationwide in the country. Internet access restrictions, cellphone signal restrictions, and media restrictions have been enacted for several days in multiple districts as the government cracks down on advocates and others protesting injustices under the guise of "maintaining public safety and averting public emergency."

For months, thousands of farmers have marched and protested against three bills passed in India's parliament in September. Protests have spread from the Indian capital of New Delhi to other parts of the country and garnered global attention with well-known icons like Rihanna and Greta Thunberg tweeting about the issue. While thousands have applauded the two for engaging prominent Western figures in the cause silenced by many Indian stars, Hindu nationalists, and conservatives in India have launched campaigns against the two celebrities for spreading misinformation and propaganda.

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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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