In six chapters, Mozilla fellow Tarcízio Silva’s book Algorithmic Racism takes readers through the murky dungeons of AI bias - a beast that feeds off pre-existing structural and systemic racial discrimination in Brazil.

(Brasília, Brazil | Feb 28, 2022) What happens when pre-existing structural and systemic racism finds its way into the technology that we rely on? The results are overwhelmingly devastating, especially for Black Brazilians who already face social-economic inequality.

A recent e-book authored by Mozilla fellow Tarcízio Silva; Algorithmic Racism: Artificial Intelligence and Discrimination on Digital Networks, gives an overview of this recurrent algorithmic bias, and its dangers in Brazil.

Facial recognition, selfie filters, content moderation, chatbots, predictive policing, and credit scoring are just some of the applications that use artificial intelligence systems today. When the designs of these AI tools are informed by racial bias and prejudices, the products in turn continue to propagate these biases. Most dangerously, when they are used to inform critical and life-altering decisions like arrests and loans.

The author uses descriptive case studies and conceptual tools to illustrate algorithmic racism in platforms and technologies such as social media, search engines, computer vision, and facial recognition software. Rich in critical reflections on race, democracy, and how biased AI is exacerbating societal inequalities, Silva presents a pungent overview of the incorporation of racial oppressions in digital communication and information technologies - a reality he grapples with far too often as a Brazilian.

It is difficult to draw awareness and change the course of biased tech designs, especially when the government fails to recognize the weight of racial inequality. The main objective of my book is to empower and shed light on the occurrence of these biases.

Tarcízio Silva, Author, Algorithmic Racism

While the book draws inspiration from the Brazilian context, racially-biased AI is a global challenge, affecting minority groups worldwide. Sadly, these challenges are more pronounced in countries with stark racial and ethnic divides.

Organized into six chapters, the book is based on Silva's doctoral dissertation, published by Edições Sesc, and part of the Digital Democracy Collection organized by Professor Sérgio Amadeu da Silveira.

The dialogues and diverse viewpoints presented in the book show how algorithmic racism echoes the structural racism carried forward by Brazil’s bleak history of slavery.

About Tarcízio Silva

Tarcízio Silva is currently a Tech + Society Fellow at the Mozilla Foundation, a curator at Desvelar, and a doctoral candidate in the Social and Human Sciences Program at the Federal University of ABC (UFABC), where he studies algorithmic racism and sociotechnical imaginaries of resistance.

The book Algorithmic Racism: Artificial Intelligence and Digital Networks is his first solo publication, but Tarcízio Silva was the organizer or co-organizer of eight collections among which Monitoring and Research in Social Media: Methodologies, applications and innovations (2016) and Communities, Algorithms, and Activisms: Afrodiasporic thoughts (2020), which has a preface by rapper Emicida, articles by Brazilian researchers and translations of international references.

Tarcízio is also the author of Linha do Tempo do Racismo Algorítmico: An interactive timeline with cases, data, and reactions to algorithms and artificial intelligence.

About the Digital Democracy Collection

The Digital Democracy Collection is an initiative by Edições Sesc, organized by Professor Sérgio Amadeu da Silveira. Among its publications is Beyond machines of loving grace: Hacker culture, cybernetics, and democracy by Rafael Evangelista and Access Denied: Intellectual Property and Democracy in the Digital Age by Maria Caramez de Carlotto.

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