Standing in solidarity with the Palestinian people

We at the Racism and Technology Center stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people. We condemn the violence enacted against the innocent people in Palestine and Israel, and mourn alongside all who are dead, injured and still missing. Palestinian communities are being subjected to unlawful collective punishment in Gaza and the West Bank, including the ongoing bombings and the blockade of water, food and energy. We call for an end to the blockade and an immediate ceasefire.

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Generative AI’s ability to ‘pink-wash’ Black and Queer protests

Using a very clever methodology, this year’s Digital Method Initiative Summer School participants show how generative AI models like OpenAI’s GTP-4o will “dress up” controversial topics when you push the model to work with controversial content, like war, protest, or porn.

The researchers used contentious images outside of the AI’s content guidelines, asked the AI to write a story about what it ‘saw’ in those images, and then asked it to create images on the basis of these stories while complying with its content guidelines. This is what that looks like:

In the context of protest, the model does a form of ‘pink washing’. The researchers write:

Confronted with protest imagery, we show how AI makes claims about the world that generate gendered and racialized interpretations under hegemonic values. The model sanitizes and neutralizes contentious issues by strategically inscribing queerness to obscure stories of oppression, such as racism and violence […]. For instance, keywords associated with input images such as “neo-nazis” are recast as “multiculturalism” in the revised output, “George Floyd” imagery becomes “inclusive,” and the “end police violence” sign is reframed as “empowerment.” The visual and affective distance between input and output images is significant, as controversies incentivize the model to create diametrically opposed results. This demonstrates how AI technologies can perpetuate and amplify ideological biases […] under the guise of presumed neutrality.

You can download the full poster with the research results here.

See: War, Memes, Art, Protest, and Porn: Jail(break)ing Synthetic Imaginaries Under OpenAI ’s Content Policy Restrictions at Digital Methods Initiative.

Racist Technology in Action: MyLife.com and discriminatory predation

MyLife.com is one of those immoral American companies that collect personal information to sell onwards as profiles on the one hand, while at the same suggesting to the people that are being profiled that incriminating information about them exists online that they can get removed by buying a subscription (that then does nothing and auto-renews in perpetuity).

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Students with a non-European migration background had a 3.0 times higher chance of receiving an unfounded home visit from the Dutch student grants fraud department

Last year, Investico revealed how DUO, the Dutch organization for administering student grants, was using a racist algorithm to decide which students would get a home visit to check for fraudulent behaviour. The Minister of Education immediately stopped the use of the algorithm.

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Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs dislikes the conclusions of a solid report that marks their visa process as discriminatory so buys a shoddy report saying the opposite

For more than a year now, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs has ignored advice from its experts and continued its use of discriminatory risk profiling of visa applicants.

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Tech workers demand Google and Amazon to stop their complicity in Israel’s genocide against the Palestinian people

Since 2021, thousands of Amazon and Google tech workers have been organising against Project Nimbus, Google and Amazon’s shared USD$1.2 billion contract with the Israeli government and military. Since then, there has been no response from management or executive. Their organising efforts have accelerated since 7 October 2023, with the ongoing genocide on Gaza and occupied Palestinian territories by the Israeli state.

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Racist Technology in Action: The UK Home Office’s Sorting Algorithm and the Racist Violence of Borders

In 2020, two NGOs finally forced the UK Home Office’s hand, compelling it to abandon its secretive and racist algorithm for sorting visitor visa applications. Foxglove and The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) had been battling the algorithm for years, arguing that it is a form of institutionalized racism and calling it “speedy boarding for white people.”

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Google does performative identity politics, nonpologises, pauses their efforts, and will invariably move on to its next shitty moneymaking move

In a shallow attempt to do representation for representation’s sake, Google has managed to draw the ire of the right-wing internet by generating historically inaccurate and overly inclusive portraits of historical figures.

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Dutch Higher Education continues to use inequitable proctoring software

In October last year, RTL news showed that Proctorio’s software, used to check if students aren’t cheating during online exams, works less for students of colour. Five months later, RTL asked the twelve Dutch educational institutions on Proctorio’s client list whether they were still using the tool. Eight say they still do.

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On “The Palestine Laboratory”

A large part of Israel’s economy and global influence are dependent on its military-technology complex that not only fuels the ongoing genocide in Gaza but is also exported to facilitate oppression around the world. In this thorough 2023 book, journalist Anthony Loewenstein makes explicit how Israel’s military industrial complex profits exorbitantly from exporting technologies “battle-tested” on occupied Gaza and the West-Bank.

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Racist Technology in Action: Slower internet service for the same price in U.S. lower income areas with fewer White residents

Investigative reporting by The Markup showed how U.S. internet providers offer wildly different internet speeds for the same monthly fee. The neighbourhoods with the worst deals had lower median incomes and were very often the least White.

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“Mowing the lawn”: The weaponisation of water and technology in Palestine

In the most recent issue of Logic(s) Magazine, Edward Ongweso Jr. writes about Israel’s strategy towards Gaza called “mowing the lawn”: bursts of horrifying violence – a collective punishment of Palestinian people – followed by “calmer” periods where survivors are left to bury the dead, and rebuild their infrastructure while Israel continues to deepen its occupation.

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Racist Technology in Action: Meta systemically censors and silences Palestinian content globally

The censorship and silencing of Palestinian voices, and voices of those who support Palestine, is not new. However, since the escalation of Israel’s violence on the Gaza strip since 7 October 2023, the scale of censorship has significantly heightened, particular on social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook. In December 2023, Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a 51-page report*, stating that Meta has engaged in systematic and global censorship of content related to Palestine since October 7th.

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Automating apartheid in the Occupied Palestinian Territories

In this interview, Matt Mahmoudi explains the Amnesty report titled Automating Apartheid, which he contributed to. The report exposes how the Israeli authorities extensively use surveillance tools, facial recognition technologies, and networks of CCTV cameras to support, intensify and entrench their continued domination and oppression of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories (OPT), Hebron and East Jerusalem. Facial recognition software is used by Israeli authorities to consolidate existing practices of discriminatory policing and segregation, violating Palestinians’ basic rights.

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Judgement of the Dutch Institute for Human Rights shows how difficult it is to legally prove algorithmic discrimination

On October 17th, the Netherlands Institute for Human Rights ruled that the VU did not discriminate against bioinformatics student Robin Pocornie on the basis of race by using anti-cheating software. However, according to the institute, the VU has discriminated on the grounds of race in how they handled her complaint.

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Proctoring software uses fudge-factor for dark skinned students to adjust their suspicion score

Respondus, a vendor of online proctoring software, has been granted a patent for their “systems and methods for assessing data collected by automated proctoring.” The patent shows that their example method for calculating a risk score is adjusted on the basis of people’s skin colour.

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Use of machine translation tools exposes already vulnerable asylum seekers to even more risks

The use of and reliance on machine translation tools in asylum seeking procedures has become increasingly common amongst government contractors and organisations working with refugees and migrants. This Guardian article highlights many of the issues documented by Respond Crisis Translation, a network of people who provide urgent interpretation services for migrants and refugees. The problems with machine translation tools occur throughout the asylum process, from border stations to detention centers to immigration courts.

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Al Jazeera asks: Can AI eliminate human bias or does it perpetuate it?

In its online series of digital dilemmas, Al Jazeera takes a look at AI in relation to social inequities. Loyal readers of this newsletter will recognise many of the examples they touch on, like how Stable Diffusion exacerbates and amplifies racial and gender disparities or the Dutch childcare benefits scandal.

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Dutch police used algorithm to predict violent behaviour without any safeguards

For many years the Dutch police has used a risk modeling algorithm to predict the chance that an individual suspect will commit a violent crime. Follow the Money exposed the total lack of a moral, legal, and statistical justification for its use, and now the police has stopped using the system.

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