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This week, Roqayah and Kumars are joined by Dr. Safiya Umoja Noble, assistant professor at the University of Southern California Annenberg School of Communication and author of the new book Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism. Safiya calls attention to the built-in prejudices that distort search results and influence the information users can access on Google and other search engines in ways that reinforce structural inequality and bigoted attitudes. The crew talks about how the reliance of companies like Google on human-created algorithms to sort and prioritize search results means that the creators’ racist and sexist assumptions get translated into a new, ostensibly “neutral” or “objective” media form.
Safiya discusses the particular case of Dylann Roof, whose search history led him to the right-wing ideas he said motivated his massacre at a black church in Charleston, South Carolina. Roqayah and Kumars ask Safiya about laws in Europe that compel companies to restrict access to Nazi propaganda and other hate speech, and get her thoughts on regulating how companies prioritize bigoted content. Finally, Safiya puts forward one model for how a radical search engine might work to both protect marginalized users and ensure that tools of oppression are presented in their proper context.
A transcript for this episode will be provided upon request. Please send an email to deleteuracct @ gmail to get a copy sent to you when it is completed.