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Journalist Meredith Broussard confronts bias in tech

Meredith Broussard, a data journalist, whose latest book explores how technology reinforces inequality and advocates the need to redesign those systems, visited The College of New Jersey for a lecture and book signing on March 29. 

As an associate professor at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute of New York University and research director at the NYU Alliance for Public Interest Technology, Broussard’s academic research focuses on artificial intelligence in investigative reporting and ethical AI. 

During her recent lecture held in the Barbara L. Gitenstein Library Auditorium, Broussard discussed topics from her new book More Than A Glitch: Confronting Race, Gender, and Ability Bias in Tech.

Broussard  emphasized the importance of distinguishing AI as portrayed in Science Fiction and the reality of AI. 

“Real AI is math, machine-learning computational statistics,” she explained. 

Broussard discussed how biases, especially racial ones, are embedded into many of the AI codings used in everyday products. She highlighted studies where hand sanitizer and soap dispenser technology did not work correctly for people of darker skin tones.

Broussard argued against the concept of Techno-Chauvinism, which is the idea that technology and algorithms are superior to the average human. Instead, Broussard said there are often blind spots within coding that make some of the most basic technological functions inaccessible for marginalized groups. 

“Probably what happened is that the designers were white. Silicon Valley has a diversity problem,” Broussard said. She believes their mindset may have been: “It works for us, so it must work for everybody.”

Broussard said there are often stories within inaccessibility and advised aspiring tech and science journalists to test algorithms and technology for accessibility for the deaf, the blind, and people who speak another language. 

Broussard said there are also stories on whether algorithms profile or discriminate against an applicant based on race, gender, or sex. She refers to it as Algorithmic Accountability Reporting and cites ProPublica, The Markup, and The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. Broussard mainly cites ProPublica as the creator of the field, with their 2016 Article ‘Machine Bias’ kickstarting the effort to investigate malfunctioning algorithms.

In order to help create more accessible technologies, Broussard proposed  three methods. The first is accountability reporting and utilizing journalism to hold coders and their employers accountable. The second is to deconstruct the myths of AI and discuss the reality — which is that it is not sentient and will never be in its current state. While it can be faster than the human brain, it is not superior either. Broussard finally urged that society begin to develop accessible technology for the public interest. 

Broussard has worked as a reporter for The Philadelphia Inquirer and is the author of the award-winning book, Artificial Unintelligence,which focuses on the errors of AI.

The lecture event was co-sponsored by the School of the Arts and Communication, the Department of Journalism and Professional Writing, the School of Science, the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, and the Division of Inclusive Excellence. 

Jose Magana Flores


School of the Arts and Communication
Art and Interactive Multimedia Building
The College of New Jersey
P.O. Box 7718
2000 Pennington Rd.
Ewing, NJ 08628


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