It was proven that algorithms behind many social media platforms were manipulated in an attempt to influence black voters. The released Mueller report outlined it plainly: Russian operatives deliberately targeted black activists online through social media—using the algorithmic technology behind online platforms to purposely cause dissension among black voters in the 2016 election (on page 32 of the Special Counsel’s report).
According to a report from Axios, these foreign actors gamed a number of tech platforms in addition to social media, including Google, PayPal, and Instagram.
“One of the reasons social media platforms continue to be exploited is because the opacity of algorithms being used make many of these fictitious posts or misleading campaigns go viral,” according to the Axios report.
HOW ALGORITHMS CAN NEGATIVELY AFFECT BLACK LIVES
Algorithms are inextricably linked with Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Big Data. Algorithms, in a nutshell, are lines of code that tell computers what to do. While not all algorithms are used for AI, they do provide instructions for AI systems, as per TheNextWeb.
The problem with algorithms is that they are “inherently racist,” according to Mutale Nkonde, a US-based policy analyst and a 2018-19 fellow at Data & Society Research Institute in New York City.
“Algorithmic decision-making is based on historical data,” says Nkonde. “A system will look at, for example, how many people were evicted in Bed-Stuy [a Brooklyn neighborhood] over the last 10 years. When you are going for an apartment and then when your landlord does a credit check, if you’re black and it says there were historically huge amounts of evictions [among the black community], then you may not get the apartment.”