Synopses & Reviews
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 unmoderated 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.
"There's been a growing swell of concern in the academic community about the stranglehold that commercial (for-profit) search engines have over access to information in our world. Safiya Umoja Noble builds on this body of work...to demonstrate that search engines, and in particular Google, are not simply imperfect machines, but systems designed by humans in ways that replicate the power structures of the western countries where they are built, complete with all the sexism and racism that are built into those structures." Popmatters.com
"Noble offers a compelling look into the structure of digitized information — most of it driven by advertising revenue — and how it perpetuates racist assumptions and ideologies." Pacific Standard
"In Algorithms of Oppression, [Noble] offers her readers a lens to discover, analyze, and critique the search engine algorithms that perpetuate stereotypes and racist beliefs…[This] book will be of great interest to academic librarians who teach information literacy courses, as well as students and faculty in computer science, ethnic studies, gender studies, and mass communications." Choice
About the Author
Safiya Umoja Noble is an Assistant Professor at the University of Southern California (USC) Annenberg School of Communication. Noble is the coeditor of two books, The Intersectional Internet: Race, Sex, Culture and Class Online and Emotions, Technology and Design.
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