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Virtual event

Inspecting algorithms in social media platforms: bridging regulators and independent auditors

CRAFT session at the 2021 ACM Conference on Fairness, Accountability, and Transparency

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Date and time
12:00pm – 1:20pm, 5 March 2021 (GMT)

On Friday 5 March 2021, Reset and the Ada Lovelace Institute are co-hosting a CRAFT session at ACM FAccT 2021 to bring together academics of all disciplines, and people representing different communities of practice (including journalism, advocacy, activism, organising, education, art, spirituality, public authorities) with regulators in a hands-on workshop to understand challenges and identify methods for inspecting algorithms in social media platforms.

About the workshop

New legislation is paving the way for regulatory inspection of social media platforms, including through the UK’s Online Harms Bill and the EU’s Digital Services Act. A regulator with audit powers will fundamentally reshape the inspection ecosystem, and create new opportunities for external auditors –  such as civil society, journalists and academic researchers (many represented in the FAccT community) –  to access platform data in reliable, legal ways. This may include the need for regulators to inspect the underlying algorithms that power these systems, such as recommendation engines, ad delivery systems, automated moderation detection systems, and others.

As of now, no regulator has conducted an algorithm inspection of this kind, which raises a number of questions:

  • What could a regulatory algorithm inspection look like?
  • How could it be informed by lessons from external, independent actors who have conducted these types of inspections?
  • Moving forward, how could a regulator further support these external actors?

Through these questions, the workshop will begin to develop requirements for a regulatory algorithm inspection.

Following expert lightning talks, participants will respond to a case study and set of prompts in interactive breakout groups. Participants will draw on their own experiences to identify the specifications for, and hurdles to, a robust regulatory algorithm inspection.

Workshop agenda

  • 12:00: Introduction to workshop, purpose, facilitators
  • 12.05: Lightning talks on roles in the ecosystem and challenges from:
    • Ofcom (the UK communications and soon-to-be online harms regulator)
    • Competition and Markets Authority
    • The Markup’s Citizen Browser
  • 12.25: BREAK
  • 12.35: Breakout groups: case study problem-solving discussions: how would an inspection work?
  • 13.20: Group sharing from discussions & close

Attending the workshop

If you would like to attend, visit the ACM FAccT registration page. Registration will give you access to the full live programme, which runs online from Wednesday 3 March 2021 to Wednesday 10 March 2021.

Once registered for CRAFT sessions there will be an opportunity to express interest in this workshop.

Background reading and further resources

We will update this page with resources and links surfaced by workshop participants, as well as key findings from the workshop.

Image credit: christophertdumond

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