Workshop: The turn to artificial intelligence in governing communication online

The technology underlying artificial intelligence research has increasingly found applications in the area of content moderation and communication governance on digital platforms. While the scale of problematic online content might make a stronger response reasonable, taking down content through automated means creates risks for online expression and access to information. Amid an obscure use of AI-systems, opaque implementation, vague definitions, and a lack of accountability, governments and policy-makers are heavily pressuring companies to take action. And a few EU members states have already responded with new regulatory initiatives.

The Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society (HIIG) and Access Now will host a workshop on technological advancements, the extent of Artificial Intelligence deployment, and the range of approaches to understanding the status and future impact of AI systems to govern social communication on the internet.

We invited experts from different fields and backgrounds to participate in the discussion on March 20, 2018 in Berlin.

Expert Workshop: The turn to artificial intelligence in governing communication online
HIIG | Französische Str. 9 | 10117 Berlin
20 March 2018 | 9am – 6pm


The workshop will be organised around three problem-oriented questions in order to map challenges of this development:

  1. Who are the primary agents of the socio-technical change to artificial intelligence in content moderation?
  2. How is the turn to AI influenced (e.g. governance instruments)?
  3. Why is the process of change accepted, or not?

Sessions will be chaired by known experts who will provide inputs and facilitate interaction among all participants.






Welcome and Introductions


Fanny Hidvégi (Access Now)
Kirsten Gollatz (HIIG)
Christian Katzenbach (HIIG)… and all participants




Impulse Statements

Malavika Jayaram (Digital Asia Hub)
Nick Feamster (Princeton University)








Session 1: Detecting and Classifying Content

Moderator: Christian Katzenbach (HIIG)
With contributions by:
Renata Barreto (UC Berkeley)
Sabine Frank (Google)
Ulrike Klinger (Freie Universität Berlin, Weizenbaum Institute)
Emma Llansó (Center for Democracy & Technology)
Constanze Osei-Becke (Facebook)
Fabrizio Augusto Poltronieri (De Montfort University)
Florent Thouvenin (University of Zurich)
Betty van Aken (Beuth University)
Zeerak Waseem (University of Sheffield)


Coffee Break








Session 2: Humans and Machines – Division of Labour, Practices

Moderator: Kirsten Gollatz (HIIG)
With contributions by:
Johannes Baldauf (Freelance Consultant)
Iva Nenadic (European University Institute)
Sarah T. Roberts (UCLA)
Jeremy Rollison (Microsoft)
Mirko Vossen (die medienanstalten)
Jillian C. York (EFF)










Session 3: Policy and Governance Instruments

Moderator: Fanny Hidvégi (Access Now)
With contributions by:
Prabhat Agarwal (EU Commission)
Amélie Heldt (Bredow-Institute)
Joris van Hoboken (Vrije Universiteit Brussels)
Michael Latzer (University of Zürich)
Ramak Molavi (iRights)


Coffee Break




Remote Intervention: Tarleton Gillespie (Microsoft Research New England)









Session 4: AI and Society-in-the-Loop: Societal Implications

Moderator: Jeanette Hofmann (HIIG/WZB) (tbc)
With contributions by:
Amar Ashar (Berkman Klein Center)
Lisa Gutermuth (Ranking Digital Rights)
Aphra Kerr (Maynooth University)
Tilo Mentler (University of Lübeck)
Kevin Morin (Institut National de la Recherche Scientifique, Canada)
Jörg Pohle (HIIG)
Matthias Spielkamp (Algorithm Watch)


Remote Intervention: David Kaye (UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression)


Wrap-Up and Way Forward


18:00 End of Workshop


The Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society (HIIG) explores the dynamic relationship between the internet and society, including the increasing interpenetration of digital infrastructures and various domains of everyday life. Its goal is to understand the interplay of social-cultural, legal, economic, and technical norms in the process of digitisation.

Access Now is an international not-for-profit civil society organisation that defends and extends the digital rights of users at risk around the world. We are a team of 40, with local staff in 10 locations around the world. We maintain four legally incorporated entities – Belgium, Costa Rica, Tunisia, and the United States – with our tech, advocacy, policy, granting, and operations teams distributed across all regions. By combining innovative policy, user engagement, and direct technical support, we fight for open and secure communications for all. Access Now focuses on freedom of expression, privacy and data protection, network discrimination and internet shutdowns, cybersecurity, and more.