Shortened Final Paper – Talia Feinberg

Due to the inequality in the access to technology, within the technological field, and in the availability of credible information, society is dividing further on the basis of socioeconomic status, gender, race, and politics. 

In the present day, access to the internet has never been so vital. While those who have the internet readily available to them have always had an academic advantage, the pandemic caused this means to progress from a luxury to a necessity. The gap in education is exponentially widening as a result of the pandemic on the basis of wealth, which cannot be detached from its relationship to race. In a study aimed to determine the impacts of remote learning on academic achievement, it became readily apparent that those in low income areas, English learners, Hispanics, and African Americans were far less likely to have this resource than white people (Sen & Tucker, 2020). This can be attributed to the already apparent institutional pressures working against these groups that cause them to not have the same opportunities for economic success as the white elites. While there was already a visible gap in education amongst these groups, because the pandemic forced remote learning, these marginalized people are falling further behind while the white elite continue to advance. The lack of access to technology has exacerbated the already existing gap between the “haves” and the “have notes”, and by default, the white and the non-white. 

In addition to the tangible discrepancy in access to the internet, within the technological industry, there are apparent inequalities in terms of who are the developers behind these innovations, causing a “diversity recession”. Because of the lack of diversity in tech production, there are lasting impacts of unrepresentativeness in technological output. The apparent obstacles women face to join these companies have only increased in the face of the pandemic, due to cultural gender roles enforcing them to be home caring for their children in these unprecedented times. This deems them “less attractive” candidates for receiving offers to these companies. In addition, when coding for a new technology, data must be fed into an algorithm, and with a lack of diversity amongst those doing so, these algorithms are too often fed data that only benefits those that mimic the appearance and experience of this homogenous group. Not only are non-white people more likely to lack access to these programs, but when they do have these resources, too often technology fails them to work as it does for those in majority status. 

The inequality amongst access to the internet, within the tech field, and in the disproportionate difficulty of the technology output, unfortunately does not cover the magnitude of the digital divide. Beyond this, the physical location of where one is using technology determines the credibility of the information they face. In the Facebook papers, documents released about the inner workings of the platform, disturbing information arose about the profit-driven company regarding the discrepancy of misinformation in different regions. A Facebook researcher shared a disturbing experience they had in regards to making a hypothetical account in India; they were bombarded with hate speech, celebration of violence, and misinformation. The researcher also shared an alarming statistic regarding this idea: “87% of the companies global budget for time spent on classifying misinformation is earmarked for the US while only 13% is set for the rest of the world” (Frenkel & Alba, 2021). This has real world implications for global conflict, specifically in regard to politics. The media’s ability to radicalize its users can be seen through the Capitol Hill riots in which Facebook was aware of the spread of misinformation, and chose to basically neglect it. The inequality in access to quality information widens the societal gap, causing implications of violence and social unrest.

When considering factors such as gender, race, socio-economic status, and politics, which can unfortunately so often not be isolated from each other, these impacts are exacerbated. Inequalities in communication technology have already posed serious risks for society and continue to do so. Without change, this inequality and divide will only increase injustice amongst the human race.

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