Google and the Miseducation of Dylann Roof
On June 17, 2015 Dylan Roof walked into the historic Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina and cold-bloodedly murdered nine African American worshipers; leading one to wonder, what prompted a young man, who was reportedly not raised in a racist home, to commit such a vile act? The answer, oddly enough, lies in part with the way Google’s algorithm works. Roof’s radicalization began when he searched the term “black on white crime” in Google and was given what he described as “pages upon pages of these brutal black on white murders.” Unknown to most users, Google’s algorithm tracks a user’s activity and provides more of what Google assumes the user wants to see. In Roof’s case, this ended up being white supremacist propaganda. The first web site Roof visited was produced by the Council of Conservative Citizens, an overtly racist group that once called black people a “retrograde species of humanity.” This website then led Roof to Stormfront.org, the oldest hate site on the web, where Roof was fed a litany of misinformation and hate ideology. Google likes to present itself as the new library for the world. But, if I were to walk into a library researching black on white crime, I would surely be directed to the FBI’s crime statistics and not a section of books full of hate speech and lies written by white supremacists. Dylan Roof, while entirely responsible for his actions, fell into the preverbal rabbit hole, as so many other impressionable and undereducated young people have. It is thus imperative to teach young people how to verify the accuracy and reputability of websites so they can avoid the traps white supremacists set. Further, Google must be held accountable to actually providing the public with the most “trustworthy, reputable and authoritative” sites available, as they claim to do. Read the full Southern Poverty Law Center article Here.