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Algorithmic Accountability Reporting | Journalism Interactive 2014

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Talk on "Algorithmic Accountability Reporting" by Nicholas Diakopoulos, a computer scientist, Tow Fellow at the Columbia University Journalism School and incoming member of the faculty at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism.

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Algorithmic Accountability Reporting | Journalism Interactive 2014

  1. 1. Algorithmic Accountability Reporting: On the Investigation of Black Boxes Nicholas Diakopoulos, Ph.D. Columbia University Journalism School (soon to be University of Maryland College of Journalism) @ndiakopoulos – http://www.nickdiakopoulos.com
  2. 2. We should interrogate the architecture of cyberspace as we interrogate the code of Congress. -- Lawrence Lessig, Code is Law, 2000
  3. 3. $$$ $$$ $$$ $$$ $$$ $$$ $$$ $$$
  4. 4. Algorithms Are Everywhere
  5. 5. Algorithmic Obfuscation Algorithms are opaque Technical complexity is a barrier
  6. 6. Algorithmic Accountability How can we characterize the bias or power of an algorithm? When might algorithms be wronging us, or making consequential decisions? What role might journalists play in holding algorithmic power to account?
  7. 7. Algorithmic Power: Decisions 1 2 3Prioritization Classification Association Filtering
  8. 8. Transparency Voluntary incentives for self-disclosure about algorithms Trade secrets Including FOIA exception Gaming / manipulation Goodhart’s Law: “when a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.” Cognitive complexity Transparency information needs to be accessible and understandable
  9. 9. Adversarial Investigation Reverse Engineering “the process of extracting the knowledge or design blueprints from anything man-made” Systematic examination to unearth a model of how system works Uncover unintended side- effects as a result of implementation
  10. 10. Output Input-Output of an Algorithm Input
  11. 11. geo cookies prices Staples.com WSJ Price Discrimination Jennifer Valentino-DeVries, Jeremy Singer-Vine, and Ashkan Soltani. Websites Vary Prices, Deals Based on Users’ Information. Wall Street Journal. Dec, 2012. Price discrimination Do different people pay different prices depending on their geography or browser history? Yes!
  12. 12. Discriminatory / Unfair Mistake that denies a service Censorship Breaks law or social norm False Prediction Other Stories from Algorithms?
  13. 13. Teaching journalists to do algorithmic accountability It’s messy and hard! Legal issues EULAs, DMCA, Computer Fraud and Abuse Act Ethical implications of publishing more info Gaming, individual privacy Transparency policy What factors to expose, frequency, format of disclosure What’s Next?
  14. 14. Thanks! Questions? Nick Diakopoulos Twitter: @ndiakopoulos Email: nicholas.diakopoulos@gmail.com Web: http://www.nickdiakopoulos.com More Info Algorithmic Accountability Reporting: On the Investigation of Black Boxes. Tow Center. Feb. 2014. http://towcenter.org/algorithmic-accountability-2/
  15. 15. Algorithms In Media: Search Search Engine Autocomplete Google Autocomplete FAQ: “we exclude a narrow class of search queries related to pornography, violence, hate speech, and copyright infringement.” Editorial Criteria Boundaries of censorship, differences among search engines, mistakes?
  16. 16. Algorithms In Media: Trends Implications for formation of publics? How are trends defined and measured? What might be missed as a result?
  17. 17. Algorithms In Media: Filtering

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