The GOP's fact-free world threatens the survival of democracy

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene

The right-wing media apparatus, which is global in scale, has lately been making a fetish of something called "critical race theory" (CRT). This has prompted academics to defend it. It's not a radical political ideology, they say. It's merely a form of critical inquiry. It is not the boogeyman it's being made out to be. There's nothing to fear.

I understand the need to defend critical race theory. Colleges and universities are beset on one hand by Republican fascists accusing scholars of indoctrinating students, on the other by anti-left liberals accusing the same of hostility toward freedom of speech. Meanwhile, administrations act more like corporations that privilege efficiency over research and teaching. It's enough to think CRT is an appropriate hill to die on.

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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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