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data discrimination (data censorship)

Contributor(s): Matthew Haughn

Data discrimination, also called discrimination by algorithm, is bias that occurs when predefined data types or data sources are intentionally or unintentionally treated differently than others.

In discussions about Net Neutrality, data discrimination includes the censorship of lawful information by an internet service provider (ISP). Throughout the last decade, ISPs have been criticized for allegedly quashing competition, promoting or discouraging particular political ideologies or religious beliefs and blocking union websites during employee labor disputes.

Although an ISP may state reasons for filterning or blocking lawful traffic that seem altruistic, critics maintain that the practice is more likely to be inspired by self-interest. For example, when an ISP blocks peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing at a university, the ISP may claim that its actions are helping to prevent music and software piracyBitTorrent is an example of a service that has many legitimate uses but is often blocked by universities for the stated reasons of piracy prevention.

This was last updated in April 2017

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