There is little doubt over the great potential of melding artificial intelligence with digital epidemiology to combat Covid19 effectively: the study of large amounts of online published data ranging from social media posts to trending hashtags can aid health officials in their task to track outbreaks quickly and target responses. At the same time, large technology companies hold a wealth of unpublished information (private posts, search keywords, location and interaction data with contacts) that could help epidemiologists further. To this end, LETS Lab at the School of Law and Criminology has joined forces with a network of organisations and researchers in an open letter urging social media and content sharing platforms to archive material for research.
According to LETS Director, Dr Argyro Karanasiou, the lockdown policies imposed globally have boosted an unprecedented flow of information via online platforms used for social purposes. At the same time the ever familiar danger of spreading misinformation online is now met with solely automated means of moderating content online, which needs to be transparent and audible as it may well compromise free speech and privacy. The letter urges tech giants to archive such data so that they can be studied further “to evaluate the macro and micro level consequences of relying on automation to moderate content in a complex and evolving information environment. (…) It is essential that platforms preserve this data so that it can be made available to researchers and journalists and included in your transparency reports. The data will be invaluable to those working in public health, human rights, science and academia. It will be crucial to develop safeguards to address the privacy issues raised by new or longer data retention and by the sharing of information with third parties, but the need for immediate preservation is urgent.”
The open letter has been published by Article19 and can be viewed here.
Congratulations to Dr Argyro Karanasiou for being an active voice and stealing the spotlight!