I’m Just Going To Leave This Here, I Think

AI systems to detect ‘hate speech’ could have ‘disproportionate negative impact’ on African Americans.

If you’re laughing at the headline, you’re a terrible, terrible person.

A new Cornell University study reveals that some artificial intelligence systems created by universities to identify “prejudice” and “hate speech” online might be racially biased themselves and that their implementation could backfire, leading to the over-policing of minority voices online.


[Researcher, Thomas] Davidson said tweets written in “African American English,” or AAE, may be more likely to be considered offensive “due to […] internal biases.” For example, terms such as nigga and bitch are common hate speech “false positives.” “We need to consider whether the linguistic markers we use to identify potentially abusive language may be associated with language used by members of protected categories,” the study’s conclusion states.

“Human error” and “inadequate training” have been cited as explanations.

Update, via the comments:

Given the volume of research that’s subordinate to the conceit that anything reflecting poorly on a Designated Victim Group must therefore, by definition, be an unconscionable act of bias, it’s refreshing to see that the authors of the study do concede that the effect they denounce is most likely a result of statistical differences in actual behaviour:

Different communities have different speech norms, such that a model suitable for one community may discriminate against another… The ‘n-word’… can be extremely racist or quotidian, depending on the speaker… we should not penalise African-Americans for using [it].

However, the authors seem quaintly mystified by the fact that tweets by black people “are classified as containing sexism almost twice as frequently.” And whether the word bitch and various common synonyms should result in flagging and censure only when used by white people and other, as it were, unprotected categories is left to the imagination.

Also, open thread.

Elsewhere (289)

Via Darleen, Mary Hudson on the dirty secrets of ‘progressive’ public education:

There was an ethos of hostile resistance. Those who wanted to learn were prevented from doing so. Anyone who “cooperated with the system” was bullied. No homework was done. Students said they couldn’t do it because if textbooks were found in their backpacks, the offending students would be beaten up… I tried everything imaginable to overcome student resistance. Nothing worked. At one point I rearranged the seating to enable the students who wanted to engage to come to the front of the classroom. The principal was informed, and I was reprimanded. This was “discriminatory.” 

Somewhat related, this, this, and the third item here

Jonah Goldberg on the immorality of “social justice”: 

Among the myriad problems with this worldview is that individual circumstances are boiled away… Vast abstract categories of human beings are swept up into notions of collective guilt — or victimhood… Traditionally, a person is only supposed to be responsible for the wrongs he or she committed against a specific person. If Person A does something terrible entirely unbeknownst to Person B, it is unjust to hold Person B accountable solely because of the colour of his skin. It’s even more grotesque to hold Person B accountable for the things done by Person A if Person A lived 300 years ago.

Andy Meek on a modern vice: 

Robocallers and spam callers are getting quite good at masking their identity. They do this partly by “spoofing” local numbers, making it seem like a legitimate local number is calling to increase the likelihood that you’ll answer. That’s the reason, according to [caller-ID app] Hiya, that around 9 percent of spam calls a month actually get answered by phone owners even though they don’t recognise the number calling. Nine percent might not sound like much, until you consider the fact that 26.3 billion robocalls were made to American phones in 2018. That’s up 46 percent from 2017’s total of 18 billion.

And via Ace, some news from the world of powerlifting, an activity we don’t often cover here:

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Unsafe To Share

Further to the eye-widening James Damore saga of August last year, an update of possible interest

James Damore, the Google engineer who was fired after arguing that the gender gap in tech may be partially explained by sex differences among men and women, just filed a class-action lawsuit against Google in the Santa Clara, Calif., Superior Court. Damore came to fame after he wrote the now-infamous “Google manifesto,” where he pointed out that “differences in distributions of traits between men and women may in part explain why we don’t have 50% representation of women in tech.” Filed Monday morning, the class-action lawsuit argues that Google discriminates against white conservative men on the basis of their “male gender” and “Caucasian race,” further alleging that there is “open hostility for conservative thought” in the Google workplace…

The lawsuit also alleges that Google employees were awarded bonuses for arguing against Damore’s views. In one example of this, a female employee was awarded a bonus for speaking out against the “wretched hive of scum and villainy” allegedly represented by Damore’s memo. Email excerpts sent among Google employees after Damore’s memo went public also illustrated pervasive hostility towards conservatives. “I intend to silence these views; they are violently offensive,” wrote senior engineer Colm Buckley in a message to his co-workers. He also wrote to co-workers that there are certain political views “which I do not want people to feel safe to share.”

The details of the lawsuit can be read here and some of the allegations are worth perusing. For instance, those regarding the widespread and enthusiastic use of “shitlists” to exclude and punish employees deemed insufficiently enthused by identity politics; and the apparent indifference of Google’s managers and HR department to harassing, demeaning or racial rhetoric when the targets of such language were white. A phenomenon illustrated by a manager, Chris Busselle, urging white employees – described as “schmucky” and “cheesy” on account of their pallor - to decline invitations to attend conferences; and by another manager, Liz Fong-Jones, who openly professed, in writing, that she “could care less about being unfair to white men.” A view she subsequently described as “absolutely reasonable.”


For those so inclined, and via Chris, there’s a crowdfunding option to help out with legal expenses.

Elsewhere (250)

Heather Mac Donald on “diversity” voodoo’s encroachment on science and technology: 

Columbia’s vice provost for faculty diversity and inclusion regurgitates another classic of diversity boilerplate to justify this enormous waste of funds. “The reality is that you can’t really achieve excellence without diversity. It requires diverse thought to solve complex problems,” says vice provost Dennis Mitchell. Mitchell’s statement is ludicrous on multiple fronts. Aside from the fact that the one thing never sought in the academic diversity hustle is “diverse thought,” do Mitchell and his compatriots in the diversity industry believe that females and underrepresented minorities solve analytical problems differently from males, whites, and Asians? 

Somewhat related, this. It’s remarkable just how readily all of this “diversity” and wokeness boils down to a mental image of a teacher turning to one of his students and saying, “You, the brown boy. What’s the negro perspective on this engineering problem?”

See also this, added via the comments. 

Arthur Sakamoto on what happens when you challenge the racial assumptions entrenched in sociology departments: 

People are afraid to critique this paradigm [of “white privilege” and systemic racism] because it’s so ideologically popular. Privately, some people have told me that [by challenging it,] I’m, quote, “suicidal.” […] I’ll be frank with you — I’ve been submitting to the American Sociological Review on Asian Americans for the past 25 years and apparently there’s no data good enough to convince the reviewers that Asian Americans have reached parity with respect to white people. Every single one gets rejected. What happens is, when the paper doesn’t conform to the conventional wisdom [of “white privilege”], the methodological standards are raised. But if you argue that there is discrimination, then the methodological standards are relaxed

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Elsewhere (243)

Further to this, Glenn Reynolds on the Google memo saga: 

The Damore firing, and [CEO, Sundar] Pichai’s disgraceful handling of it, represents colossal damage to Google’s brand. In essence, it’s an announcement — by a company that has access to everyone’s data — that it endorses the notion of thought-crime.

Heather Mac Donald on divining phantom prejudice: 

The attempt to find systemic police bias has come to this: the difference between an officer saying “uh” and saying “that, that’s.” According to Stanford University researchers, police officers in Oakland, California, use one of those verbal tics more often with white drivers and the other more often with black drivers. If you can guess which tic conveys “respect” and which “disrespect,” you may have a career ahead of you in the exploding field of bias psychology.

Howard Husock on the fallout of “affirmative action”: 

Liberals should ponder the implications of what we’ve learned to date about Harvard admissions. Blacks can score 400 points lower than Asians on the SAT, and almost as much less than whites, and still get admitted. In an earlier time, blacks were told that they must be “twice as good” as whites to get into school or make partner at a law firm; they are now being told that they need only be half as good… Why work hard when less effort will be rewarded in the same way? Inevitably, this logic means that those African-Americans whose work really is twice as good are nonetheless suspected of being sub-par — a dispiriting fate. Who would ever want to be viewed as having been hired (or retained) for reasons other than one’s capabilities — say, fear of litigation?

Jackson Richman on the same: 

Chunyan Li, a board member of the Asian American Coalition for Education, said: “Who is to say Obama’s daughters should have preference over a Chinatown cook’s son?”

Oh, and according to the founder of Vox and Daily Kos, you’re all Nazis now

Feel free to share your own links and snippets, on any subject, in the comments.

And Lo, There Came A Great Bunching Of The Panties

“Everyone is allowed to share their opinion. I just hope he gets fired for it.”

Regarding the ongoing ‘Google memo’ saga, I thought I’d lift the following from yesterday’s comments:

To recap. A Google software developer with a PhD in biology writes a polite, conciliatory and politically centrist memo suggesting that there’s a leftist groupthink problem in the company that inhibits open discussion; that men and women on average have differing preferences and abilities, albeit with a large overlap, and so “diversity” policies might benefit from bearing that in mind; and that perhaps people should be treated as individuals rather than as mascots of allegedly oppressed identity groups.

This is immediately met with ludicrous and wilful mischaracterisation by “social justice” Twitter and the ‘progressive’ media, including deliberately deleting the memo’s links to supporting data; a general refusal to engage honestly with the author’s points, or in many cases even to read them; baseless accusations of every ‘ism’ going; personal doxxing; boasts of blacklisting; and demands that the author of the memo be fired for his heresy and never employed again. On grounds that his arguments are “violently offensive” and in need of being “silenced.” He is, you see, “committing violence” with his statistics. All of which rather proves the author’s point about leftist groupthink and its reliance on distortion, intimidation and outright hysteria.

The employee in question has of course now been fired. Readers who wish to be violently offended can read the memo here.


Jordan Peterson interviews James Damore, author of the supposedly scandalous and “fascist” memo. Skip forward to 5’10:

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Not So

New York Times, December 8, 1985:  

For the most part, the portable computer is a dream machine for the few… On the whole, people don’t want to lug a computer with them to the beach or on a train to while away hours they would rather spend reading the sports or business section of the newspaper. Somehow, the microcomputer industry has assumed that everyone would love to have a keyboard grafted on as an extension of their fingers. It just is not so.

In 1985, the New York Times claimed a weekday circulation of just over one million copies. Specifically, 1,013,211 on March 31. In 2015, when most Americans have computers in their pockets (and even use them at the beach and on trains), print sales of the New York Times have fallen to around half that figure, and the paper is chiefly read via the kind of devices once dismissed as implausible. Rather than “whiling away the hours reading the sports or business section,” the majority of readers are now “flybys,” their stays lasting for an average of four minutes, generally to read something linked via email and social media. And browsing one article isn’t quite the same thing as reading a newspaper.  

Via Kevin D Williamson