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ACMWebSci21 virtual conference workshop

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ACMWebSci21 virtual conference workshop

Tue, 22 Jun '21 at 14.00 BST

People You May Know. From research to film: how to turn your research into a documentary.

Researchers unearth all sorts of things. Dr Charles Kriel, Associate Fellow, King's Centre for Strategic Communications (KCSC), King’s College London wrote a paper for a Nato Journal in 2017, then was hired by the DCMS Select committee on Fake News and Disinformation as a Special Advisor to support the investigations into Cambridge Analytica of 2018. Something he heard , said by Cambridge Analytica's Alexader Nix grabbed his attention - and that lead to People You May Know , a chilling, investigative documentary now streaming on Amazon Prime.

It follows the way in which social media data, big data, predictive analytics and psychometric data when combined can give up to 5000 data points for any targeted individual. The addition of AI and generation of content to scale can target Facebook dark ads to people - all of which can lead to their mobilisation, activation in the service of politics - in the case study this film presents into Trump's foot-soliders in the run-up to the 2020 Presidential Election.

For data scientists, social media researchers, specialists in machine learning and AI this film shows how the manipulation of data , leads to the manipulation of people. We are pleased to host this workshop with Dr Charles Kriel and Katharina Gellein , the researchers and filmmakers behind this filmed journey.

Professor Lucy Hooberman, a former Executive Producer and Factual programme Commissioner chairs this workshop where we will show you how to turn your research into a film, if you have something momentous to say. We will discuss any sections of the film of interest, take all questions and try and provide answers. In addition participants will have some time to pitch their ideas to the panel for some expert feedback!

For further information: please email

Special Pre-conference Event: Social Media Under the Bonnet

Join us on Wednesday 16 June at 18:00-19:00 BST for this special ACM WebSci’21 panel, chaired by Professor Lucy Hooberman.

Registration is free – book you place here

Facebook has been in the news a lot in the last year. In fact, in the last five years since 2016 there have been repeated attempts to get behind the algorithms to understand conclusively what impact this Tech Giant can have on its many, many followers. Consequences, unforeseen perhaps, but very real of the admixture of big data, artificial intelligence and psychometric profiling, can activate and mobilise people to behave in ways to suit interests that are not always in their best interests. This panel will look at the realpolitik of how the influencing of elections, propagating hate, creating echo chambers and social divisions and the PYMK algorithm coming into full view are driving political and social outcomes worldwide. What can be done by researchers and legislators in different disciplines to cut through and make a difference?

This panel brings together the evidence of a very powerful documentary case study by Dr Charles Kriel and Katharine Gellein with the newest and most focussed research-based analysis by leading academic Professor Sinan Aral and Damian Collins MP, one of the most hands on politicians when it comes to the public face of penetrating questions (and former Chair of the UK’s DCMS Select Committee on Fake News and Disinformation from 2016 – 2019).

Watch the film People You May Know on Amazon Prime. Conference registered attendees will be sent a complimentary live link and password to watch the film in advance from 12 June. Watch the trailer here.

Conference registered attendees can also join a Conference Workshop on Tuesday 22 June from 14:30-16:30 BST with the filmmakers, Dr Charles Kriel and Katharine Gellein, to learn how to turn your research into film to influence people and change the world!

Further information

To register for the full conference visit our registration site. Registration is £50 for the full 5 days.

Read the book The Hype Machine by Sinan Aral and listen to the HBR Exponential View Podcast with Professor Aral and Azeem Azhar.

Read the DCMS Select Committee Final Report on Fake News and Disinformation here.

Panel 1: The Coded Gaze: algorithmic bias, facial recognition and beyond – How research can change the law and influence people

Tuesday 22 June, 17:30 – 18:30

Chair: Lucy Hooberman
Panellists: Ricardo Baeza-Yates, Rumman Chowdhury, Margaret Mitchell

In 2016, an MIT Graduate student gave a TEDx Talk in New York. Joy Buolamwini’s TEdX Talk of 2016, has been viewed by nearly 1.5 million people, and it later led to a journey of deeper discovery with other researchers and filmmaker Shalini Kantayya. Their resulting film, Coded Bias, was launched at the Sundance Festival in 2020 and later released on Netflix in April 2021. The film reveals in an accessible way how facial recognition software and automated decision-making has unprecedented power to reproduce bias at scale. As companies and governments increasingly outsource their services to entities which employ more machines and more machine learning , we can now see that algorithms are being used to decide what information we see, who gets hired, who gets health care, and who gets undue police scrutiny. Human rights lawyers and ethicists can see that this affects vulnerable communities the hardest.

Our distinguished panellists will bring Joy’s insights right up to date and will chart how fast the field is moving whilst also digging deep into the origins of this field. What steps can and should be taken by companies, individual people and researchers to change the way in which ordinary human bias and ignorance is encoded into our digitally driven world? How will we help enable machines not to make the same mistakes as we have historically made? Do we understand the concept of ethics in private and public companies well enough, let alone AI ethics? Do private companies have the same responsibilities as public and government institutions when it comes to transparency and accountability? Environmental, Social and Governance (ESGs) are all the rage but are they becoming a branch of marketing?

All conference delegates will receive a link to watch Coded Bias generously supplied by the film’s distributor, Women Make Movies, from June 18th to June 25th inclusively.

There will be a BBC World Service Digital Planet programme going out featuring our panel at 20.30 BST on the BBC World Service.

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