Addressing contingency in algorithmic (mis)information classification: Toward a responsible machine learning agenda

Andrés Domínguez Hernández, Richard Owen, Dan Nielsen, Ryan McConville

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference Contribution (Conference Proceeding)


Machine learning (ML) enabled classification models are becoming increasingly popular for tackling the sheer volume and speed of online misinformation and other content that could be identified as harmful. In building these models, data scientists need to take a stance on the legitimacy, authoritativeness and objectivity of the sources of "truth" used for model training and testing. This has political, ethical and epistemic implications which are rarely addressed in technical papers. Despite (and due to) their reported high accuracy and performance, ML-driven moderation systems have the potential to shape online public debate and create downstream negative impacts such as undue censorship and the reinforcing of false beliefs. Using collaborative ethnography and theoretical insights from social studies of science and expertise, we offer a critical analysis of the process of building ML models for (mis)information classification: we identify a series of algorithmic contingencies--key moments during model development that could lead to different future outcomes, uncertainty and harmful effects as these tools are deployed by social media platforms. We conclude by offering a tentative path toward reflexive and responsible development of ML tools for moderating misinformation and other harmful content online.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationACM Conference on Fairness, Accountability, and Transparency (ACM FAccT)
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery (ACM)
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 12 Jun 2023


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