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Babysitter Bias Woes for Social Media Platforms

Amidst another torrid week for Facebook on a number of fronts, the company and social media rival Twitter also had to deal with the controversy surrounding babysitting app Predictim. The app scrapes the social media profiles of prospective nannies and provides an assessment of whether they pose a risk, essentially using algorithms to make a judgment on somebody’s suitability for hire, as reported here by the BBC’s North American tech correspondent Dave Lee.

It highlights again some of the comms challenges faced by social media platforms caused by third party apps. As Facebook investigates the Predictim app and Twitter blocks it, the lines are clearly blurred over how much responsibility the platforms have to protect users from the content they themselves have posted. The bigger story for Facebook this week was, of course, the amazing developments with the House of Commons’ Serjeant-at-Arms seizing documents from Six4Three… another third party app that uses an algorithm to analyse user content and flag pictures of women in bikinis.

The Commons committee is trying to assess Facebook’s privacy policies through documents seized, but both of these two stories underline the shift in focus on how social media platforms police the use of even published material by users. The ethical questions are strong with these and many other third party apps and the platforms are coming to grips with the reputational risk of not tackling sketchy players.

News in Brief:

Around Whitehall:

Government earmarks £3m in funding for AI research for legal and insurance sectors

BEIS has earmarked £3m to be put towards research into how AI can boost productivity in the legal and insurance industries as part of the Industrial Strategy’s AI and Data grand challenge. The money is being put towards three new research projects at Loughborough, Oxford and Sheffield universities.

Margot James highlights the importance of garnering public trust in the use of their data

Speaking at the Government Innovation Conference, Digital Minister Margot James underlined the importance of the Centre for Data Innovation & Ethics in building public trust in AI applications that rely on citizens’ data. “There’s a great danger – if we get ahead of ourselves in government and industry, and allow public debate to fall behind, we fail to build the trust that is absolutely vital for the success of this endeavour,” she said.

Lib Dem deputy calls for improved AI regulation

Speaking at the British Science Association’s Huxley Summit, Jo Swinson said that algorithms used in recruitment or personalising content needed to be more closely controlled to prevent racist and sexist bias:

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