How do you take care on the Internet? What are the dangers of online fake news and filter bubbles? What are appropriate punishments for hate speech and trolling?
These are questions we asked members of the public during the Curiosity Carnival at the University of Oxford on September 30th. The Curiosity Carnival formed part of European Researchers’ Night, celebrated in cities across Europe. Oxford ran a city wide programme of activities across its universities, libraries, gardens and woods to give members of the public a chance to find out about real research projects and meet the people who conduct them.
The UnBias team paired up with the Digital Wildfire project to host a stand in the beautiful surroundings of the Museum of Natural History and Pitt Rivers Museum. Amongst the dinosaurs and other fascinating artefacts from around the world, we set up information displays about the two projects plus an activity that invited visitors to learn about common scenarios in which safety and fairness on the Internet are undermined and then vote to give their responses to them. Members of the project team were on hand to discuss the issues involved in more detail and we also video recorded mini interviews with some of the visitors to find out their answers to the question How do you take care on the Internet?
Over 2500 visitors came to the museum over the course of the evening and we were delighted with how they engaged with our activities. Conversations and debates sprung up as people considered the scenarios and reflected on their voting choices. Their considerations mirrored the same tensions we highlight in the UnBias project: for instance, what are the trade-offs between convenient personalisation and user privacy online? and can an algorithm determine whether content is true or false? Visitors took away with them information leaflets to learn more about our projects and were also very keen to take home one of our word magnet sets so that they could make their own sentences about safety and fairness on the Internet.