Artificial intelligence — and its subfield of machine learning — is reshaping the landscape of news and information. From the algorithms filtering what we see on social media, to the use of machine learning to generate news stories and online content, AI has and will continue to play a major role in shaping what and how information is distributed and consumed.
As researchers and companies continue to advance the technical state of the art, we believe that it is necessary to ensure that AI serves the public good. This means not only working to address the problems presented by existing AI systems, but articulating what realistic, better alternatives might look like.
This open challenge, which will award up to $750,000 to a range of projects, is seeking fresh and experimental approaches to four specific problems at the intersection of AI and the news:
Governing the Platforms: Ensuring that AI serves the public good requires the public to know how the platforms are deploying these technologies and how they shape the flow of information through the web today. However, as many others have pointed out, the level of transparency and accountability around these decisions has been limited, and we’re seeking ideas that help to raise it. This might be new policies in the form of draft legislation, or technical tools that help keep an eye on the information ecosystem.
Stopping Bad Actors: AI might be applied by a variety of actors to spread disinformation, from powering believable bots on social media to fabricating realistic video and audio. This exacerbates a range of existing problems in news and information. We’re seeking approaches we can take to detect and counter this next generation of propaganda.
Empowering Journalism: Journalists play a major role in shaping public understanding of AI, its impact on the information ecosystem, and what we should do to ensure the technology is used ethically. But it can be hard to keep up with the latest developments in the technical research and communicate them effectively to society at large. We’re seeking ideas that will help bolster this community in this important work, and give them the tools they need to effectively communicate about AI and its impact.
Reimagining AI and News: It is easy to find a lot of things to critique about the influence that automation and AI have on the news and information space. More challenging is articulating plausible alternatives for how these platforms should be designed and how they should deploy these technologies. We’re interested in ideas that paint a picture of the future: How might platforms from smartphones and social media sites to search engines and online news outlets be redesigned in part or entirely to better serve the public good?
We believe there are a diverse range of communities that can bring their expertise to bear on these issues but are frequently left out of the conversation. This challenge is open to anyone: We’re looking for journalists, designers, technologists, activists, entrepreneurs, artists, lawyers from a variety of communities around the world — anyone who thinks they have a good idea about addressing these problems that may not have been tried before.
We’re also open to the kinds of tools that you might use to address these problems. We can envision funding a range of projects, from interesting technological prototypes and research reports to draft legislation and compelling depictions of the future.
While we are interested in hearing about proposals at many different levels of development, we are most focused on pilot testing new approaches and projects that would otherwise not occur, rather than simply supporting existing programs. Out of the $750,000 committed to this project, we anticipate giving out grants in the range of $75,000 to $200,000 which will be spent towards a year-long project.
This challenge is organized and funded by the Ethics and Governance of AI Initiative, a hybrid research effort and philanthropic fund that seeks to ensure that technologies of automation and machine learning are researched, developed, and deployed in a way that vindicate social values of fairness, human autonomy and justice.
The AI Initiative is supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Omidyar Network, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. The anchor institutions leading the initiative are the MIT Media Lab and the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University.
Timeline and Challenge Details
- Entry Phase - September to October
From Sept. 12 to Oct. 12, 2018, we’re inviting you to submit your idea to win a share of $750,000, which we’ll award in February 2019 to the most compelling teams and projects. This is the time to submit project ideas for the challenge on the form that we’ve set up on Submittable here.
- Review Phase I - October to November
With the help of our partners, this phase serves as our first opportunity to read and review all the entries we receive to determine the semifinalists for the challenge.
- Semifinalist Refinement Phase - November to December
Upon reviewing all of the entries, we will notify all challenge applicants by Nov. 16 regarding the status of their submission. Projects selected as semi-finalists will be given instructions on how to provide answers to a series of refinement questions.
- Review Phase II - January 2019 to February 2019
During the second review phase, we will select a group of finalists.
- Winners - March 2019
After interviewing a group of finalists, we will select a final group of winners. All remaining applicants will be notified of their pending status. Approved winners will be publicly announced at the end of February.