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USC Prof Claims Google Algorithms ‘Discriminate Against People of Color’

USC Prof Claims Google Algorithms ‘Discriminate Against People of Color’

“inquiries can sometimes yield content that perpetuates stereotypes against women and women of color”

The accusation is strange, given Google’s devotion to social justice issues. Google denies the claims.

Campus Reform reports:

Prof claims Google search algorithms ‘privilege whiteness’

A University of Southern California professor argues in a new book that Google’s search algorithms “privilege whiteness” and “discriminate against people of color,” a claim Google says was outdated before the book was even published.

Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism was written by Safiya Umoja Noble, a USC professor who teaches classes such as “Interpreting Popular Culture” and “Race and Ethnicity in Arts and Entertainment.”

The book—reviewed by Campus Reform—frames Google’s search engines as carelessly racist and sexist, as search inquiries can sometimes yield content that perpetuates stereotypes against women and women of color.

“Data discrimination is a real problem” writes Noble, who goes on to claim that that Google employs a “biased set of search algorithms that privilege whiteness and discriminate against people of color, specifically women of color.”

In her book, Noble refers to this as “technological redlining” and “algorithmic oppression.”

“While we often think of terms such as ‘big data’ and ‘algorithms’ as benign, neutral, or objective, they are anything but,” she contends. “The people who make these decisions hold all types of values, many of which openly promote racism, sexism, and false notions of meritocracy.”

Noble goes on to cite James Damore’s infamous “Google Memo,” falsely claiming that Damore was “arguing that women are psychologically inferior and incapable of being good at software engineering as men” to bolster her claim.


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“People of color” is such a limp, flaccid, wishy-washy phrase.

I think it’s discriminatory that white isn’t a color.

He doesn’t provide any examples. Maybe pointing out facts that reflect poorly on blacks is racist.

    Milhouse in reply to ConradCA. | June 20, 2018 at 8:44 pm

    She can hardly be held responsible for Mr LaChance’s choice of what paragraphs to quote from the Campus Reform piece, or for that matter for that piece’s writer’s choice of which examples to cite from the book.

      healthguyfsu in reply to Milhouse. | June 21, 2018 at 10:56 pm

      As a professor in communications, I don’t see how she is qualified to assess the biases inherent in a search algorithm’s code. More likely, she is seeing the results of popular web traffic. If she wants to call society racist or sexist, well that’s her field’s MO, but she isn’t qualified to dissect computer code.

healthguyfsu | June 21, 2018 at 10:50 pm

Ockham’s razor would tell you that search engines don’t see color, just traffic, and since minorities produce less traffic than majorities, the results are just “organically racist” to the patterns of traffic.