Algorithms of Oppression

Algorithms of Oppression

How Search Engines Reinforce Racism

Book - 2018
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As seen in Wired and Time



A revealing look at how negative biases against women of color are embedded in search engine results and algorithms



Run a Google search for "black girls"--what will you find? "Big Booty" and other sexually explicit terms are likely to come up as top search terms. But, if you type in "white girls," the results are radically different. The suggested porn sites and un-moderated discussions about "why black women are so sassy" or "why black women are so angry" presents a disturbing portrait of black womanhood in modern society.



In Algorithms of Oppression, Safiya Umoja Noble challenges the idea that search engines like Google offer an equal playing field for all forms of ideas, identities, and activities. Data discrimination is a real social problem; Noble argues that the combination of private interests in promoting certain sites, along with the monopoly status of a relatively small number of Internet search engines, leads to a biased set of search algorithms that privilege whiteness and discriminate against people of color, specifically women of color.



Through an analysis of textual and media searches as well as extensive research on paid online advertising, Noble exposes a culture of racism and sexism in the way discoverability is created online. As search engines and their related companies grow in importance--operating as a source for email, a major vehicle for primary and secondary school learning, and beyond--understanding and reversing these disquieting trends and discriminatory practices is of utmost importance.



An original, surprising and, at times, disturbing account of bias on the internet, Algorithms of Oppression contributes to our understanding of how racism is created, maintained, and disseminated in the 21st century.




Safiya Noble discusses search engine bias in an interview with USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism

Publisher: New York : New York University Press, [2018]
Copyright Date: ©2018
ISBN: 9781479837243
1479837245
Branch Call Number: 025.04252 GOO NOB
Characteristics: xv, 229 pages :,illustrations

Opinion

From Library Staff

Safiya Noble’s book reminds us that technology is not neutral. Think a Google search is straightforward? Noble will have you questioning that simple search box. We see a different search result depending on who we are (or at least who Google thinks we are). Eye-opening and important.


From the critics


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nemansyed
Apr 03, 2019

While waiting on hold for this, you might enjoy related ideas in Weapons of Math Destruction. It comes from the what's-behind-big-data and what-trains-algorithms perspectives. The modern-day version of garbage-in-garbage out is not just dangerous to individuals, but entire segments of society. What's behind Google's identifying Black men as gorillas? What does your credit score have to do with why you aren't getting that job? Why won't you ever know the (intentionally secret) data that drives the (intentionally secret) decision-making process?

This isn't conspiracy theory - it's an investigation into how the assumptions and experiences of people who work on these problems affect the design decisions they make, written by the PhD data scientist behind mathbabe.org. Highly recommended.

g
granola72
Apr 03, 2019

Interesting to see that Safiya is speaking at the UK National Archives this week . There is a You Tube version of her presentation https://www.youtube.com/watch?reload=9&v=n3dQUYTN9PA&feature=youtu.be
I have the book on hold and look forward to reading it.

m
Mikogee
Dec 26, 2018

Why did I expect the Internet to be different from automobiles, television or global commerce? It is a tool to make money for and represent the values of the people who control it. The stuff about reducing disparities and spreading democracy was just marketing candy. If I eat the candy, I get the stomach ache.

Noble uses compelling examples of racially and sexually biased search results and introduced me to a new perspective on the digital divide. Ironically, during the week that I read this book, the U.S. Senate heard testimony from the GAFAM representatives on allegations of liberal bias in the Internet. Will the author's case for discrimination be frozen into yet another front of the cultural trench war? Noble offers promising solutions at multiple levels of engagement: posting egregious search results to raise awareness, using alternative search engines to promote diversity, getting a degree in sociology and applying for a job at Google to change the system from within. She challenged my assumptions and broadened my understanding.

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