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Mapping the public debate on ethical concerns: algorithms in mainstream media

Balbir S. Barn (Department of Computer Science, Middlesex University, London, UK)

Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society

ISSN: 1477-996X

Publication date: 22 August 2019

Abstract

Purpose

Algorithms are in the mainstream media news on an almost daily basis. Their context is invariably artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning decision-making. In media articles, algorithms are described as powerful, autonomous actors that have a capability of producing actions that have consequences. Despite a tendency for deification, the prevailing critique of algorithms focuses on ethical concerns raised by decisions resulting from algorithmic processing. However, the purpose of this paper is to propose that the ethical concerns discussed are limited in scope and suggest that it is not clear what concerns dominate the debate.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper uses a systematic mapping study approach to review articles appearing in leading UK national papers from the perspective of the ethical concerns over a period of one year. The articles are categorised using a widely cited framework detailing a taxonomy of ethical concerns. The UK context is important because of UK public policy initiatives around AI.

Findings

The research presented in this paper contributes the first systematic mapping study of articles appearing in leading UK national papers from the perspective of widely accepted ethical concerns such as inscrutable evidence, misguided evidence, unfair outcomes and transformative effects.

Originality/value

The research presented in this paper contributes the first systematic mapping study of articles appearing in leading UK national papers from the perspective of the ethical concerns. The UK context is important because of UK public policy initiatives around AI. To review the media content from the perspective of ethical concerns, this paper uses the synthesised conceptual map of ethical concerns developed by Mittelstad et al. Given the dominance of that framework, this paper’s contribution is also an important instantiation and experimental validation of using that conceptual map.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The comments from the two anonymous reviewers have been very helpful and constructive, and the feedback is duly acknowledged.

Citation

Barn, B.S. (2019), "Mapping the public debate on ethical concerns: algorithms in mainstream media", Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society, Vol. 18 No. 1, pp. 124-139. https://doi.org/10.1108/JICES-04-2019-0039

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited