History & Theory

Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism

History & Theory
20 Mar, 2019

Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism

with Safiya Umoja Noble
University of California, Los Angeles
Co-sponsored by the CITRIS Policy Lab

This talk requires a (free) seat reservation. Reservations will be made available to book at 10am on 3/10 here. These tickets are first-come, first-served. Reservations are limited to the amount of seats available in the theater.

SEAT RESERVATIONS POLICY: You are only permitted to reserve one seat at a time (one name per reservation). If you are able to secure a seat reservation, please be aware that if you are not seated in the theater by 4:55pm, we will be opening up the theater to people waiting at the door. We will not be holding seats and will not allow anyone in the theater to save seats for late attendees. At 5:00pm, staff will fill any remaining seats in the theater on a first come, first serve basis with people who have opted to stand in line at the door. Please know that if you choose to stand in line at the door without a reservation, we cannot promise that any seats will become available.

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In her recent best-selling book 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- and contributes to our understanding of how racism is created, maintained, and disseminated in the 21st century.

About Safiya Umoja Noble

In 2019, Dr. Safiya Umoja Noble will join the Oxford Internet Institute at the University of Oxford as a Senior Research Fellow/Associate Professor. She is currently visiting at the University of Southern California (USC) Annenberg School of Communication, and is on the faculty of the Department of Information Studies in the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, and the Department of African American Studies at UCLA. Previously, she was in Media and Cinema Studies and the Institute for Communications Research at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

She is the author of a best-selling book on racist and sexist algorithmic bias in commercial search engines, entitled Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism (NYU Press) and was the recipient of a Hellman Fellowship and the UCLA Early Career Award. She is regularly quoted for her expertise by national and international press on issues of algorithmic discrimination and technology bias, including The Guardian, the BBC, CNN International, USA Today, Wired, Time, and the New York Times, to name a few.

Safiya’s academic research focuses on the design of digital media platforms on the internet and their impact on society. Her work is both sociological and interdisciplinary, marking the ways that digital media impacts and intersects with issues of race, gender, culture, and technology.

Dr. Noble is the co-editor of two edited volumes: The Intersectional Internet: Race, Sex, Culture and Class Online and Emotions, Technology & Design. She currently serves as an Associate Editor for the Journal of Critical Library and Information Studies, and is the co-editor of the Commentary & Criticism section of the Journal of Feminist Media Studies. She is a member of several academic journal and advisory boards, including Taboo: The Journal of Culture and Education. She holds a Ph.D. and M.S. in Library & Information Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and a B.A. in Sociology from California State University, Fresno where she was recently awarded the Distinguished Alumni Award for 2018.

About the History and Theory of New Media Lecture Series

The History and Theory of New Media Lecture Series brings to campus leading humanities scholars working on issues of media transition and technological emergence. The series promotes new, interdisciplinary approaches to questions about the uses, meanings, causes, and effects of rapid or dramatic shifts in techno-infrastructure, information management, and forms of mediated expression. Presented by the Berkeley Center for New Media, these events are free and open to the public.

We are pleased to present the following lectures as part of this year's 2018-2019 season:


September 12 | 6:30 — 8:00 PM | 112 Wurster Hall
Architectural Intelligence
Molly Wright Steenson, Carnegie Mellon University
In partnership with the Department of Architecture

October 4 | 5:00 — 6:30 PM | BCNM Commons, 310 Moffitt Library
Learning To Interact: Cybernetics and Play
Timothy Stott, Dublin School of Creative Arts, Dublin Institute of Technology


Mar 20 | 5:00 — 6:30 PM | 310 Banatao Auditorium, Sutardja Dai Hall
Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism
Safiya Noble, University of California, Los Angeles
Co-sponsored by the CITRIS Policy Lab

Apr 03 | 5:00 — 6:30 PM | BCNM Commons, 340 Moffitt Undergraduate Library
The Human Computer in the Stone Age: Technology, Prehistory, and the Redefinition of the Human after World War II
Stefanos Geroulanos, New York University

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