Louise Lief

To Fix a Broken Internet, Coders Revisit Their Code of Ethics

Aspen Institute


Add one more group to the growing list of those jolted into self-examination and action in the wake of the 2016 election. There are the women, scientists, the media, religious leaders — and now the coders.

In a world turned upside down, there are signs of a cultural shift in the tech industry to take greater responsibility for the great digital systems it builds and runs — and upon which much of the world now depends. Until now, they have been in what Tarleton Gillespie, a researcher at Microsoft Research New England calls a “regulatory sweet spot” between “legislative protections that benefit them and obligations that do not.”

Since the elections, the question of their broader responsibilities in public discourse and civic life is moving front and center. Concerned about fake news, disinformation and hate speech that are often amplified by automated online systems, the top global association of computer scientists, engineers and developers is re-examining its code of ethics and professional conduct, and issuing statements endorsing transparency and accountability for the algorithms that power these systems. Other computer scientists, aided by the American Civil Liberties Union, are suing the federal government for the ability to audit algorithms. Still others, alarmed by what they call the growing “creepiness” of digital tools, are critiquing current tech practices and searching for a better way.

Read more at The Aspen Institute.

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