Biden criticized for 'woefully' undercounting civilians killed in US wars — just like past presidents

President Joe Biden listens as Vice President Kamala Harris delivers remarks to Department of Defense personnel, with Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III, the Pentagon, Washington, D.C., Feb. 10, 2021.
(DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)

Human rights defenders on Wednesday accused the Biden administration of joining its predecessors in undercounting the number of civilians killed during U.S. wars, as the latest annual Pentagon report on noncombatants killed by American bombs and bullets was blasted as "grossly inadequate" by a leading ACLU official.

According to a Department of Defense report (pdf), U.S. forces killed 23 civilians last year during military operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen.

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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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