For two years the UnBias project has been examining the user experience of algorithm driven internet platforms and seeking answers to important questions such as:
Are algorithms ever neutral?
How might algorithmic systems produce unexpected outcomes that systematically disadvantage individuals, groups or communities?
How can we make sure that algorithmic processes operate in our best interests?
On October 1st 2018 we held our UnBias project showcase event. Seventy attendees from the fields of research, policy, law, industry and education came together at the Digital Catapult in London to hear and discuss our key project findings. We also highlighted our practical outputs such as policy guidelines and our exciting fairness toolkit.
The event also included a lively panel debate and engaging presentations from external speakers about the social consequences of algorithmic biases and how they might be addressed. We ended the day by announcing plans for our follow-on project, ReEnTrust, which will identify mechanisms to rebuild and enhance trust in algorithmic systems.
On October 1st the UnBias project team will be showcasing the outcomes of our work. We are looking forward to welcoming an audience of 70 stakeholders from research, law, policy, education and industry.
In addition to reporting on our major findings we will also highlight key outputs such as policy guidelines and demonstrate our exciting fairness toolkit. This engaging and interactive event will also include presentations from external speakers and opportunities for networking. Furthermore, we will announce plans for our follow-on project, ReEnTrust, which will identify mechanisms to rebuild and enhance trust in algorithmic systems.
The Fairness Toolkit has been developed for UnBias by Giles Lane and his team at Proboscis, with the input of young people and stakeholders. It is one of our project outputs aiming to promote awareness and stimulate a public civic dialogue about how algorithms shape online experiences and to reflect on possible changes to address issues of online unfairness. The tools are not just for critical thinking, but for civic thinking – supporting a more collective approach to imagining the future as a contrast to the individual atomising effect that such technologies often cause.
On the week-end of June 30th and July 1st, the UnBias team hosted a two-day hackathon at Codebase in Edinburgh, with support from local outfit Product Forge, whose experience organizing such events is unrivalled in Scotland.
The hackathon challenge was formulated as follows:
“Artificial Intelligence shapes digital services that have become central to our everyday lives. Online platforms leverage the power of AI to monetize our attention, with often unethical side-effects: our privacy is routinely breached, our perception of the world is seriously distorted, and we are left with unhealthy addictions to our screens and devices. The deep asymmetry of power between users and service providers, the opacity and unaccountability of the algorithms driving these services, and their exploitation by trolls, bullies and propagandists are serious threats to our well-being in the digital era.
In response to the growing importance of algorithmic products in international trade, regional and international trade negotiations at the WTO and elsewhere are currently seeking to set down new rules regarding issues such as Intellectual Property and algorithmic transparency.
In order to try to avoid outcomes of the trade negotiations that inadvertently blocks algorithmic accountability, Ansgar is supporting Sanya Reid Smith of Third World Network in her efforts to brief trade negotiators on causes and consequences of algorithmic bias and the current status of regulatory and standards initiatives to address these issues.
The Nottingham UnBias Team has been working with children aged 3-13 years to help them to learn how the internet works and to reflect on issues of personal information and online filter bubbles, through creating their own “data gardens”. We attended a Family Discovery Day on the 16th June at the University of Nottingham and the STEM Festival at Bluecoat Beechdale Academy on Saturday 23rd June.
We are pleased to announce that UnBias won one of the three 2017 RCUK Digital Economy Theme ‘Telling Tales of Engagement’ awards. The evaluation process for this award considered both the impact of our previous work and a proposed new activity to “tell the story” of our research.
Our submission was titled “building and engaging with multi-stakeholder panels for developing policy recommendations”, highlighting the importance to our research of engaging with our stakeholder panel and with organizations that are shaping the policy and governance space for algorithmic systems.
Our new video animation explains what algorithms are, how they shape our online browsing and how they can create risks of bias. It also describes how the UnBias project seeks to promote a future Internet that is free and fair for all. Watch it here!
Emancipating Users Against Algorithmic Biases for a Trusted Digital Economy