Since 1919, The New School has been home to scholars, creators, and activists who challenge convention and boldly make their mark on the world.
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On October 1–6, 2019, join us as we reflect on a century of world-changing ideas and together imagine a new kind of future.

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Friday, October 4 • 6:00pm - 7:30pm
The Future of Ethics for an AI, Data Driven Media Industry

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Can media companies create effective ethical codes and standards in our increasingly data-dominated, attention economy?

In this session, four expert panelists—and the audience—dialogue and brainstorm to explore and suggest ideas that can lead to answers to this question. The session includes examinations on whether, given the growing power of AI and intense competition among media outlets, media can still create workable codes of ethics. If so, what should these new codes look like? If not, does society need to figure out brand new media business models? Allow or encourage more government regulations? Cultivate new types of information entities that will serve the public good to supplement what traditional media companies have traditionally been charged with?

The highly competitive, profit-driven economic system has always made it challenging for the media to create and uphold effective ethical standards. Even so, over the past several decades, a range of media industry associations, individual companies, and workers themselves have created and integrated professional ethical practices. While always imperfect, these codes and standards have served to guide media practitioners, marketers, and managers in making ethical decisions and preventing potentially harmful actions.

But today’s algorithmic, machine learning, and AI-powered systems are game changers. They give media companies the ability to increase their profits by deploying increasingly powerful AI-driven, data-centric strategies, which can more effectively attract vast numbers of eyeballs, clicks, and audience engagement. Because that drives advertising profit, decisions on what types of content to report or post are increasingly made not by the journalist or media professional, whose values typically embody a larger social mission, but by data scientists and others empowered by media executives, whose perspectives and intentions are less clear and likely to differ from the ethos of media professionals.

The implications of these revolutionary changes have been playing out in dramatic ways over the last few years. Media outlets—social media platforms in particular—have been shown to have initiated or facilitated unethical information practices that compromise people’s privacy, incite violence offline, or enable malicious actors to influence voters. Over the last few years, the public—and their elected representatives—have become more vocal in expressing their frustrations over these transgressions.

Certain high-profile social media and technology companies have tried to respond to these concerns by introducing campaigns like Facebook's Data for Good and, in the case of Google, by establishing a special committee to create new ethical codes. However, it’s been widely acknowledged that Google’s new codes are toothless, do not have full executive buy-in, and are failures. This failure raises a key question: What incentives do today’s media organizations—especially those that no longer have a public service mission at heart—have to adhere to an ethical code that may retard deployment of powerful data-driven AI strategies that will bring in new revenue?

The conversations, potential solutions, and outcome of this panel-meets-audience collaboration will result in a collaborative document that will live and continue to evolve on the Web.

avatar for Claire Wardle

Claire Wardle

First Draft
Claire Wardle currently leads the strategic direction and research for First Draft, a non profit that works with newsrooms globally as they face the challenges of reporting in an age of disinformation. In 2017 she co-authored the seminal report, Information Disorder: An interdisc... Read More →
avatar for Gilad Lotan

Gilad Lotan

VP Data Science, BuzzFeed
Gilad is the head of data science at BuzzFeed where he leads a team that’s tasked with building state of the art analytics, insights, and data products to support entertainment, news, business, and tech. Previously, Gilad led data science at betaworks, and built data products and... Read More →
avatar for Lauren Moraski

Lauren Moraski

Editorial Director, HuffPost, Part-time Assistant Professor, Schools of Public Engagement, MS Media Management '15
Lauren Moraski is editorial director at HuffPost.Throughout her career, Lauren has worked in digital, print and broadcast media. She has been interviewed as an entertainment commentator for several shows and media outlets, including Extra, Inside Edition, PBS, CBS News, and MTV. She... Read More →
avatar for Nynne Storm Refsing

Nynne Storm Refsing

Publishing and Development Fellow, The New Republic, Copenhagen, Denmark, MA Creative Publishing and Critical Journalism '19
Nynne Storm Refsing graduated from the MA program Creative Publishing and Critical Journalism from The New School in the spring of 2019 and now lives in Copenhagen. In her last project, she wrote about the ethical challenges that modern media faces as technological developments has... Read More →

Friday October 4, 2019 6:00pm - 7:30pm EDT
Theresa Lang Community and Student Center - I202