Mapping the Public Debate on Ethical Concerns: Algorithms in the Fourth Estate

This paper was published in the Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society, 2019

The full paper is available on the Middlesex University Repository here.

Algorithms are in the mainstream media news on an almost daily basis. Their context is invariably artificial intelligence 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 to deification, the prevailing critique of algorithms focusses on ethical concerns raised by decisions resulting from algorithmic processing. However, this paper proposes that the ethical concerns discussed are limited in scope and it is not clear which concerns dominate the debate. 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. The UK context is important because of UK public policy initiatives around artificial intelligence. In academic literature, the key ethical concerns have been well documented and numerous models have been developed. 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 widespread use of that framework, as evident through citations, this paper’s contribution is also an important illustration and experiment using that conceptual map.