Detecting Anti-Semitism

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There’s an app for that:

German police have developed a smartphone app that allows them to identify far-right rock songs by playing just a brief sample. … The interior ministers of the country’s 16 regional states will meet this week to discuss a new method dubbed “Nazi Shazam,” in reference to the mobile phone-based music identification service Shazam, which can identify music bands and song titles from a short sample picked up via the phone’s microphone. The new software would let police quickly identify neo-Nazi rock music.

“The whole situation sounds pretty insane to an outsider,” Victoria Turk says, “but apparently far-right music is a big problem in Germany, where it’s considered a ‘gateway drug’ into the neo-Nazi scene”:

The Guardian reported that in 2004, far-right groups even tried to recruit young members by handing out CD compilations in schools. That sort of action is illegal in Germany, where neo-Nazi groups are outlawed and the Federal Review Board for Media Harmful to Minors is tasked with examining and indexing media – including films, games, music, and websites – that may be harmful to young people. Just last year, the board indexed 79 songs for being too racist or neo-Nazi-ish, which means that under-18s can’t buy them. It’s also illegal to make those songs accessible to under-18s, hence the need to track music being played where young people might be present. With the app, a police officer’s smartphone microphone could detect the illegal track and help launch a quick investigation.

Alex Madrigal worries how similar technologies could be used in the US:

Perhaps you’ve heard of ShotSpotter? It’s a system that police have deployed in Oakland and many other places that provides “gunfire awareness” to police. Basically, a series of microphones listen for loud noises and use algorithms to provide police with all kinds of information. … Let’s imagine that police in one city or another start to correlate certain rock or hip hop groups with an increase in gunfire incidents in an area. Perhaps they might make the predictive leap to saying, “If we hear this kind of music at this time of night, we’re X percent more likely to see a gunfire incident.” After all, many people already think there’s a connection between Chicago’s homicide rate and Drill, the rap music that rose from the city’s South Side. Put machine intelligence (Shazam for Neo-Nazi music) and persistent surveillance (ShotSpotter) together, and you would have a powerful system that presents some very difficult problems for fairness and civil liberties.

In some countries, as the above photo from a reader demonstrates, detecting anti-Semitism doesn’t need an app:

Driving to a concert in Beirut tonight, we encountered this car. My wife took the picture. Bizarrely, next to the swastika is a for-sale sign.