Talk Highlight: Resisting Algorithms of Mass Destruction

May 29th 2017

Today we highlight the talk from  Lyndsey Jackson and her talk about Resisting Algorithms of Mass Destruction.

In Australia, the Centrelink Master Program takes care of providing and managing the social security payments. In 2016, Centrelink started using the data from the Australian Taxation Office to see if welfare recipients had overpayments or ‘debt. They are doing this in an automated way, where human oversight is reduced. The algorithm behind this is pretty basic and has trouble with fluctuating income. Additionally, it works with business names instead of Australian business numbers(ABN). Therefore, if in one place the name is written in capitals, and the next in lowercase, the algorithm considers this as two different employers, and concludes the welfare recipient must have hiding one employer.

This new way of working did lead to 8 times as much debt recovery letters in the last half of 2016 as normally in one year. This situation has been called a “clusterfuck” by the Australian media. This was enough to start the collaborative social media campaign #notmydebt. They have as main aim to get as many false debt stories in one place as possible and to get people's voices heard so that this scandal can't be plausibly minimized or denied. In her talk, Lyndsey introduces the approach behind this collaborative social media campaign and discusses some of the challenges, and rewards, of a crowdsourced resistance.

Come see Lyndsey Jackson's talk at SHA2017! Get your tickets here. Are you curious about the other talks will be at SHA2017? Let your voice be heard and give your input on the scedule in the halfnarp.

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