OK Google, Black History Month Is Over. What Now?
A commercial and four flawed algorithms
During the Grammys this past January, Google released a commercial highlighting some of “the most searched” terms in honor of Black History Month. The 90-second ad featured footage of notable Black figures such as Beyoncé, LeBron James, Whitney Houston, Lil Nas X, and Serena Williams. When the commercial aired, Black Twitter was not surprised that Google would try to capitalize on the contributions of the Black community. Black people regularly contribute to the success of others without adequate or equitable compensation or consideration (see the National Football League or the Democratic party).
Despite the benefits Google has received from the Black community, the company has refused to or has been slow to correct the discriminatory algorithmic practices at YouTube, such as its language filter, ads, and its search algorithms. Whether intentional or unconscious, all of these biases have harmed the Black community. For some people, Google is the internet. Civil rights considerations must be central to big data and the platforms they drive. Google should not celebrate the contributions of Black people without also making their platforms welcoming to them.
Google’s YouTube algorithm
For several years, advocates have warned that white supremacists use Google’s YouTube algorithms to spread white nationalist propaganda to recruit new members. Google’s response was slow, and reports alleged that Google executives left some content up to capitalize on engagement and views. The platform finally acknowledged the communities of hate thriving on YouTube with its policy banning white supremacist content. However, the policy has not been effectively enforced, and Google has not shut down white supremacist channels on the site.
YouTube must become inhospitable to the alt-right. In 2018, more than two-thirds of Black adults used YouTube. Fostering communities of hate when such a large Black population exists…