The People vs. the Algorithmic State: How Government Is Aiding Big Tech’s Extractivist Agenda, and What We Can Do About It


Author: Ulises Ali Mejias (State University of New York at Oswego)

This paper focuses on forms of discrimination, including racism, that are produced and replicated when the state uses biased algorithms, and when the state fails to regulate corporations that use biased algorithms. The paper specifically asks what happens when the state—whose purpose is to guarantee the rights of citizens—becomes a political and business partner with corporations whose profit model hinges on exploitative data-driven advertising, platform services, and gig work. The framework of “data colonialism” (Couldry and Mejias 2019) is used to examine the historical roots of these new forms of extractivism. Suggestions are reviewed for how the public can help prevent the deployment of discriminatory algorithms, and hold states and corporations accountable when this happens.