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Debunking a Viral Internet Post About Breastfeeding Racism 350

Bennett Haselton writes: A editorial with 24,000 Facebook shares highlights the differences in public reaction to two nearly identical breastfeeding photos, one showing a black woman and one showing a white woman, each breastfeeding an infant. The editorial decries the outrage provoked by the black woman's photo compared to the mild reaction elicited by the white woman's photo, and attributes the difference to racism. I tried an experiment using Amazon's Mechanical Turk to test that theory. Read on to see the kind of results Bennett found.
Crime

Could Technology Create Modern-Day 'Leper Colonies'? 452

theodp writes "Back in the day, leprosy patients were stigmatized and shunned, quarantined from society in Leper Colonies. Those days may be long gone, but are our mapping, GPS, and social media technologies in effect helping to create modern-day 'Leper Colonies'? The recently-shuttered GhettoTracker.com (born again as Good Part of Town) generated cries of racism by inviting users to rate neighborhoods based on 'which parts of town are safe and which ones are ghetto, or unsafe'. Calling enough already with the avoid-the-ghetto apps, The Atlantic Cities' Emily Badger writes, "this idea toes a touchy line between a utilitarian application of open data and a sly wink toward people who just want to steer clear of 'those kinds of neighborhoods.'" The USPTO has already awarded avoid-crime-ridden-neighborhoods-like-the-plague patents to tech giants Microsoft, IBM, and Google. So, when it comes to navigational apps, where's the line between utility and racism? 'As mobile devices get smarter and more ubiquitous,' writes Svati Kirsten Narula, 'it is tempting to let technology make more and more decisions for us. But doing so will require us to sacrifice one of our favorite assumptions: that these tools are inherently logical and neutral...the motivations driving the algorithms may not match the motivations of those algorithms' users.' Indeed, the Google patent for Storing and Providing Routes proposes to 'remove streets from recommended directions if uploaded route information indicates that travelers seem to avoid the street.' Even faster routes that 'traverse one or more high crime areas,' Google reasons, 'may be less appealing to most travelers'."
Advertising

Racism In Online Ad Targeting 474

An anonymous reader writes "Most of us are familiar with advertisements in online web searching, and by now we've grown accustomed to scrolling past the 'sponsored' results to get to the real responses to our query. And we know the ads are context-sensitive; for example, searching for our favorite Federation Starship will bring up ads for a similarly-named car-rental agency. But now a Harvard University professor has found a more disturbing trend in those contextual ads: racism. 'Sweeney says she has evidence that black identifying names are up to 25 per cent more likely to be served with an arrest-related ad. "There is discrimination in delivery of these ads," she concludes. Sweeney gathered this evidence by collecting over 2000 names that were suggestive of race. For example, first names such as Trevon, Lakisha and Darnell suggest the owner is black while names like Laurie, Brendan and Katie suggest the owner is white. She then entered these plus surnames into Google.com and Reuters.com and examined the ads they returned. Most names generated ads for public records. However, black-identifying names turned out to be much more likely than white-identifying names to generate ads that including the word "arrest" (60 per cent versus 48 per cent).'"

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