al·go·rithm
/ˈalɡəˌriT͟Həm/

noun

A process or set of set rules to be followed in calculations or other problem-solving operations, especially by a computer.

Sistahs, I don’t know about you, but I try my best to avoid negative social media engagements. I do this to have control over my peace, knowledge, and mindfulness but in today’s digital age we are all one click away from being digitally offended.  It is no secret that anything can be found or said in the results when you search the web.

Have you ever thought about how or why that is? Speaking for myself, I blocked out anything I have seen on the internet that did not uplift me, until my cousin introduced me this book,  Algorithms of Oppression by Safiya Umoja Noble and it only right that I share the jewels I learned from this read.

Safiya Umoja Noble

1) Technological Redlining Exists.

We normally relate redlining to real estate, banks, and schools in inner-city neighborhoods. Technological redlining is created, well embedded in the computer code. The problem with this digital way of redlining is people of color “majority” women are being either excluded, picked out and picked on within a 0.07 internet search.  

2) GOOGLE… Friend or Foe?

On a September morning in 2011, all it took was for Safiya to just simply type in “Black Girls” in the Google search engine. To her surprise,140,000,000 results degrading to black girls and black women appeared. Safiya continues in the next 5 pages of the book providing actual digital examples of the results she discovered. And it did not stop at porn sites.

    3) Mass Media Reinforces Stereotypes 

Racist Algorithms continue to surface the media. Programmers of digital devices like to blame this problem on “the users” thoughts and ideas. In actuality, we live in a digital society where the media tries to market and advertise their personal beliefs onto us users and consumers.

They like to say that discrimination is actually a mirrored belief of the user who is conducting the search. I don’t believe any of this. While reading this book I was able to see for myself how the internet reinforces stereotypes and follow social trends.

Must I bring up Gucci, Prada, and Moncler? Last time I checked we don’t log onto the internet to be disrespected or put down.

4) Autosuggestions Hint & Suggest Sexism

Just by typing into a search engine “Women cannot” will display a sexist way of thinking. Safiya shows multiple examples of the search results stating that women shouldn’t drive, work, vote, or speak in church.  

These sexist autosuggestions were discovered during the Memac Ogilvy & Mather Dubai campaign completed by the United Nations in 2013. After this campaign brought sexism to the forefront, womanist all around the world responded accordingly.  

5) News Papers use Algorithmically Driven Software

Ever notice how when a person of color is slain, the first thing mentioned is their past crimes? Safiya shares a small piece of UCLA graduate, Diana Ascher’s 2017 dissertation.

In the New Yellow Journalism Ascher, discovered that automatic tweets in news media are more likely to be racist and misrepresentative to people of color. She shares this article of Slain victim Keith Lamont Scott of Charlotte, NC. Since then this article has been removed from Google. 

6) Thank God for Black Girls Code!

Who else can tackle the neoliberal attacks on black women? Black Girls Who Code of course! When Black Girls Code broke the internet in 2016 a plethora of black women and girls were uplifted and encouraged.

Black Girls Code pointed out the larger problem: the lack of black women representation inside big social platforms, such as Google, Facebook, Twitter etc where black women only make up 1%.

7) Technological Racialization

Yes, Racialization is a word lol. Digitally this is an in particular race being placed hierarchy and the constant comparison of White vs Black. The example that Safiya used was an example that I constantly face in the world away from my computer. “Professional Hairstyles.”

You have probably seen this image circling around Twitter. All styles kinky with a Sistah as the model were labeled UNPROFESSIONAL, while all the styles any white woman sported was considered professional.  

8) Advertising Sells Lies

Did you know that advertisements are responsible for most search engines’ revenue? This media practice has a large effect on shaping culture and society. Because of this Safiya makes a valid point, “The transmission of stereotypes about women in advertising creates a limited vocabulary of intention.” We see this bias daily when we are shown how advertisers choose the models for their products. We recognize this mostly under colorism.

9) Yelp can get it TOO

Since the beginning of time, Sistahs have communicated what their favorite place to eat, shop, and most importantly “Where to get your hair done” through word of mouth.

With everything being so digital, racial bias has been discovered on the online review forum, Yelp. Black business and services are often hard to find on Yelp. They are placed at the bottom of the search. Not because the service is less than, but with most of our communities being gentrified, black businesses get lost in the hive.

Instead of marketing for the business, Yelp is known to market for itself and suggest other businesses that are cultured but not black-owned. This places black-owned business at a large disadvantage.

10) The Future

Since Safiya’s release of Algorithms of Oppression and prior studies and articles, Safiya has noticed that there has been a small change in the algorithms used for Google and other search engines.

She continues to spread and speak knowledge on the harms of disinformation, inequality, and marginalization. Sistahs we can help with this as well, Safiya states that we should keep fighting to suspend the circulation of racist and sexist material that is used to erode our civil and human rights

I can go on and on like Erykah Badu, listing all the things I learned from this book. As Safiya mentions there is still work to be done. I highly recommend you to pick up your own copy of this informative read. 

Also feel free to LIKE, COMMENT AND SHARE. I always love hearing your thoughts.

Peace and Love Sistahs

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