How software infuses racism into U.S. health care

AHOSKIE, N.C. — The railroad tracks cut through Weyling White’s boyhood backyard like an invisible fence. He would play there on sweltering afternoons, stacking rocks along the rails under the watch of his grandfather, who established a firm rule: Weyling wasn’t to cross the right of way into the white part of town.

The other side had nicer homes and parks, all the medical offices, and the town’s only hospital. As a consequence, White said, his family mostly got by without regular care, relying on home remedies and the healing hands of the Baptist church. “There were no health care resources whatsoever,” said White, 34. “You would see tons of worse health outcomes for people on those streets.”

The hard lines of segregation have faded in Ahoskie, a town of 5,000 people in the northeastern corner of the state. But in health care, a new force is redrawing those barriers: algorithms that blindly soak up and perpetuate historical imbalances in access to medical resources.

A STAT investigation found that a common method of using analytics software to target medical services to patients who need them most is infusing racial bias into decision-making about who should receive stepped-up care.  While a study published last year documented bias in the use of an algorithm in one health system, STAT found the problems arise from multiple algorithms used in hospitals across the country. The bias is not intentional, but it reinforces deeply rooted inequities in the American health care system, effectively walling off low-income Black and Hispanic patients from services that less sick white patients routinely receive.

These algorithms are running in the background of most Americans’ interaction with the health care system. They sift data on patients’ medical problems, prior health costs, medication use, lab results, and other information to predict

New Yelp Policy Will Flag Businesses Accused of Racism

Yelp  (YELP) – Get Report rolled out a new feature Friday that will alert users when an establishment has been associated with what the review site called “egregious, racially charged actions.” 

The San Francisco company’s site enables users to rank and comment about businesses.

“As the nation reckons with issues of systemic racism, we’ve seen in the last few months that there is a clear need to warn consumers about businesses associated with egregious, racially charged actions to help people make more informed spending decisions,” the company said in a statement. 

A banner with a red exclamation point and a tile of “Business Accused of Racist Behavior” will appear under a business where “someone associated with this business was accused of racist behavior.”

The banner also will say whether the racist behavior resulted in an influx of people posting their views to a business’s Yelp page. Those negative reviews must reflect actual first-hand customer experiences, the company said. 

Twitter to Turn Off Some Retweets of Misleading Posts

To protect against what it calls “media-fueled reviews,” it will require that user experiences be first-hand accounts of racist behavior. 

Yelp reported seeing more than a doubling of of media-fueled “incidences” on the site so far in 2020. 

From May 26 through Sept. 30 the company placed more than 450 alerts on business pages that were either accused of, or the target of, “racist behavior related to the Black Lives Matter movement.”

Once Yelp notices an unusual spike in activity on a business’s Yelp page, the company’s moderators investigate and temporarily disable content, as they place an alert warning users that some reviews may not be based on first-hand experiences. 

When allegations of racism are present, the company will default to a general public attention alert and will escalate that banner

Yelp’s new labels will warn you if a business has been accused of racism

When it first notices a person associated with a business has been a target or accused of racism, Yelp will add a Public Attention Alert to that company’s page “to warn consumers that the business may be receiving an influx of reviews as a result of increased attention.” If a business has been accused of “overtly racist actions, where we can link to a news article,” Yelp will use its “Business Accused of Racist Behavior” label instead.

Yelp is relying on news and social media reports in this process partly to warn people about the possible influx of fake reviews affecting a business’ ratings in these situations. “It’s always been Yelp’s policy that all reviews must be based on actual first-hand consumer experiences with the business,” the company said in its news release. “This policy is critical to mitigating fake reviews and maintaining the integrity of content on our platform. We don’t allow people to leave reviews based on media reports because it can artificially inflate or deflate a business’s star rating.”

According to Yelp, up till this point in 2020, it’s already seen a 133 percent increase in “media-fueled incidences” compared to the same time last year. “Increasingly, consumers across the U.S. are voting with their dollars by supporting businesses that align with their values,” the company said. “As always, we continue to evaluate how we can best use our platform to build a better, more equitable and inclusive environment.”

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Yelp placing alerts on business pages accused of racism

As people look for tips on where to spend their money, Yelp created a consumer alert warning users about businesses accused of racist behavior.

As people look for tips on where to spend their money, Yelp created a consumer alert warning users about businesses accused of racist behavior.

TNS

If you’re browsing through Yelp reviews, you might come across a new consumer alert, warning you that a business has been “accused of racist behavior.”

“Recently, someone associated with this business was accused of racist behavior, resulting in an influx of people posting their views to this page,” the warning says.

There has been a substantial increase in the number of reviews mentioning Black-owned businesses, Yelp said in a news release Thursday. This summer, Yelp saw a 617% rise in such reviews compared with last year.

“While searches for Black-owned businesses surged on Yelp, so did the volume of reviews warning users of racist behavior at businesses,” the company said.

In the interest of the company’s “zero tolerance policy to racism,” it will now place a consumer alert on a business’s page “to caution people about businesses that may be associated with overtly racist actions.”

Yelp already placed warnings called “Public Attention Alerts” on business pages that got reviews accusing them of racism based on news reports or social media.

The number of reviews based on news reports has increased 133% in 2020. Yelp placed more than 450 Public Attention Alerts on pages “that were either accused of, or the target of, racist behavior related to the Black Lives Matter movement.”

“Now, when a business gains public attention for reports of racist conduct, such as using racist language or symbols, Yelp will place a new Business Accused of Racist Behavior Alert on their Yelp page to inform users, along with a link to a news article where they can learn more about the incident,” Yelp said.

When an alert is placed on a