Missed Connections: What Search Engines Say About Women / Safiya Umoja Noble

Noble writes evocatively about the effect of search algorithm biases on users — in this case, young black girls who will find that Google searches for “black girls” do not lead to books about black girls or communities in which young black girls might connect, but instead pornography as the top results. Noble investigates how search engines can actually maintain unequal access and representation, yet are such a foundational aspect of modern life that they are often unquestioned. She also notes that commercial interests often subvert subvert a diverse or at least realistic range of representations.

Noble, Safiya Umoja. 2012. “Missed Connections: What Search Engines Say About Women.” Bitch Magazine, 2012. https://safiyaunoble.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/54_search_engines.pdf.

Discrimination in Online Ad Delivery / Latanya Sweeney

A Google search for a person’s name, such as “Trevon Jones”, may yield a personalized ad for public records about Trevon that may be neutral, such as “Looking for Trevon Jones?”, or may be suggestive of an arrest record, such as “Trevon Jones, Arrested?”. This writing investigates the delivery of these kinds of ads by Google AdSense using a sample of racially associated names and finds statistically significant discrimination in ad delivery based on searches of 2184 racially associated personal names across two websites. First names, assigned at birth to more black or white babies, are found predictive of race (88% black, 96% white), and those assigned primarily to black babies, such as DeShawn, Darnell and Jermaine, generated ads suggestive of an arrest in 81 to 86 percent of name searches on one website and 92 to 95 percent on the other, while those assigned at birth primarily to whites, such as Geoffrey, Jill and Emma, generated more neutral copy: the word “arrest” appeared in 23 to 29 percent of name searches on one site and 0 to 60 percent on the other. On the more ad trafficked website, a black-identifying name was 25% more likely to get an ad suggestive of an arrest record. A few names did not follow these patterns. All ads return results for actual individuals and ads appear regardless of whether the name has an arrest record in the company’s database. The company maintains Google received the same ad text for groups of last names (not first names), raising questions as to whether Google’s technology exposes racial bias.

Sweeney, L. (2013). Discrimination in Online Ad Delivery. Communications of the ACM, 56(5), 44–54. arXiv.org version available online.

Power to the People: Documenting Police Violence in Cleveland / Stacey Williams and Jarrett Drake

Archivists have long recognized the inherent historical and social mandate in preserving stories of those who endured violence at the hands of the state. Examples of this responsibility include archivists who recorded public tribunals in post-apartheid South Africa, documented stories of Japanese Americans forced into internment camps during World War II, and acquired collections of 1960s civil rights activists who experienced military intervention while fighting to end segregation. These endeavors align with the historian Howard Zinn’s call for archivists to “compile a whole new world of documentary material” about the lived experiences of marginalized populations and communities. Drawing upon Zinn’s charge as well as scholarly literature around community archives, social justice, and human rights, this article describes the joint effort of community organizers and professional archivists who collaborated to establish a community archive for victims of police violence in Cleveland, Ohio. The archive, A People’s Archive of Police Violence in Cleveland, provides a sustainable, autonomous means for Cleveland residents to share their first-hand accounts of police violence in the region. The authors will narrate the archive’s conception and development as well as advance the archive as a post-custodial model for other grassroots organizations protesting various forms of state violence.

Williams, Stacie M, and Jarrett M Drake. 2017. “Power to the People: Documenting Police Violence in Cleveland.” Journal of Critical Library and Information Studies 2. http://libraryjuicepress.com/journals/index.php/jclis/article/view/33.

How We Analyzed the COMPAS Recidivism Algorithm / Mattu Larson and Angwin Kirchner

We set out to assess one of the commercial tools made by Northpointe, Inc. to discover the underlying accuracy of their recidivism algorithm and to test whether the algorithm was biased against certain groups.

Larson, Jeff, Surya Mattu, Lauren Kirchner, and Julia Angwin. 2016. “How We Analyzed the COMPAS Recidivism Algorithm.” ProPublica (blog). May 23, 2016. https://www.propublica.org/article/how-we-analyzed-the-compas-recidivism-algorithm.

Challenging the Algorithms of Oppression

In this video, Noble discusses Google’s harmful and dangerous search engine results –especially when searching terms such as “girls” and “Black girls” – and how these searches reify oppressive narratives about identity markers. She describes her methodology for collecting and analyzing these search engine results, which are dealing with advertisement algorithms and what narratives are seen as “profitable.”
Noble, Safiya Umoja. 2016. “Challenging the Algorithms of Oppression.” Presented at the Personal Democracy Forum 2016, New York City. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iRVZozEEWlE.

#transform(ing)DH Writing and Research: An Autoethnography of Digital Humanities and Feminist Ethics / Moya Bailey

Moya Bailey shares her experience collecting Tweets using the #girlslikeus hashtag and how she incorporates ethical practices when researching vulnerable communities, specifically trans women of color. Although this is not specifically a code of conduct, Bailey provides an explicit case study for how to be respectful, collaborative, and center a community’s needs over the researcher’s needs.

Bailey, Moya. 2015. “#transform(Ing)DH Writing and Research: An Autoethnography of Digital Humanities and Feminist Ethics.” Digital Humanities Quarterly 9 (2). http://www.digitalhumanities.org/dhq/vol/9/2/000209/000209.html.

Introducing Documenting the Now / Ed Summers

In this introduction to Documenting the Now collaborative project, Summers provides background about the urgency and need for this type of open source application, especially for the Black community. He outlines two main goals of the DocNow project: 1) Create an open source app “that will allow researchers and archivists to easily collect, analyze, and preserve Twitter messages and the Web resources they reference;” 2) “Cultivate a much needed conversation between scholars, archivists, journalists, and human rights activists around the effective and ethical use of social media content.”

Summers, Ed. 2016. “Introducing Documenting the Now.” MITH: Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities. DocNow (blog). February 17, 2016. https://news.docnow.io/introducing-documenting-the-now-416874c07e0#.6wp34iv6a.


Jules, Bergis. 2015. “Preserving Social Media Records of Activism.” On Archivy (blog). November 24, 2015. https://medium.com/on-archivy/preserving-social-media-records-of-activism-26e0f1751869.