Algorithms of Oppression

Speaker: Safiya Umoja Noble
Date recorded: May 15, 2018
Safiya Umoja Noble, in a conversation with Joan Donovan, discusses topics surrounding her new book Algorithms of Oppression, looking at how racism and sexism are disseminated on the web.

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.