What is Algorithmic Bias?

Bias, Discrimination & Hate
Female Designing New Information Systems

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Grade Level:
High School
Common Core Standards:
Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening, Language
Bias, Discrimination & Hate

What is an Algorithm?

An algorithm is a detailed set of instructions to reach a result based on given inputs, data or information. An algorithm can be digital or non-digital. In computing, programmers write algorithms that instruct the computer or digital platform how to perform a task.

Are Algorithms Biased?

Algorithms—as basic as a recipe or as complex as the digital codes that create targeted ads in our social media feeds—are part of our daily lives. Anyone who uses social media such as Instagram or Facebook, search engines like Google, or almost any online platforms come into contact with algorithms regularly. These algorithms, which are often designed for good use, are not always neutral or objective in how they calculate, sort and present data. Algorithms can deepen the echo chamber by spreading fake information and can discriminate against people or perpetuate bias by constructing data sets based on perceived identities and stereotypes.

About this Lesson Plan

This lesson provides an opportunity for high school students to understand the role algorithms play in our everyday lives, explore how algorithmic bias functions in society and learn how to challenge it.

Learning Objectives:

  • Students will be able to define algorithms and algorithmic bias.
  • Students will examine examples of algorithmic bias in their own lives, the lives of others and within societal institutions.
  • Students will explore the difference between someone's actual and perceived identity through a social media analysis.

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