The preposterous defense of George Floyd's killing has a long, dark history

A mural depicting George Floyd in Berlin, Germany in May 2020, Singlespeedfahrer

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin's criminal defense team is still trying to show that George Floyd died of a drug overdose or high blood pressure or something—anything—other than Chauvin's knee pressed down on his neck.

In August, his defense argued that all charges against Chauvin should be dropped because, attorney Eric Nelson said, an overdose of fentanyl was responsible for Floyd's death. Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill was not convinced, but at this week's pretrial hearings, Nelson was back on this argument, asking Cahill to allow evidence about another time Floyd swallowed pills and suffered from very high blood pressure.

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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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