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March 12, 2019, 6 a.m.
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How will artificial intelligence change society? How should journalists cover it? And how can AI actually be helpful to newsrooms and reporters?

Seven organizations are getting a combined $750,000 in funding to help answer these questions, the Ethics and Governance of AI Initiative, a joint project of the MIT Media Lab and Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center, announced Tuesday.

These are the projects receiving funding:

Project: Sidekick
Organization: MuckRock Foundation
Award: $150,000

Newsrooms and researchers are winning access to larger and larger document sets, but getting them is just the start. Understanding what is in those PDFs can be just as challenging, requiring hours of sifting and data entry. Sidekick will offer accessible and intuitive crowdsourcing and machine learning tools to help newsrooms and other groups automate turning documents into data, helping quickly analyze tens of thousands of pages while highlighting sections that might go overlooked.

Project: Reporting from the Epicenter of AI
Organization: Seattle Times
Award: $125,000

The Seattle Times will create a one-year reporting series on artificial intelligence and its implications on society. This work will involve producing major enterprise stories that examine the changing nature of work, assumptions about the jobs Americans will have in the future, and the political and public policy issues that are sparked as changes from AI take hold. From driverless vehicles to advanced robotic systems, technological changes promise to disrupt the nature and structure of work just as dramatically over the next decade as the Internet did over the past quarter century. As it has since the Industrial Revolution, the ongoing transformation of working life will ripple out through society in ways that affect income inequality, culture, notions of community and even social stability. The reporting will engage workers whose lives will be affected by AI technologies and amplify their voices, experiences and perspectives.

Project: Community Media Training to Report on AI Systems
Organization: Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY
Award: $100,000

This project seeks to train niche media organizations on how to cover artificial intelligence, with an emphasis on how the technology will directly impact the people they serve. The Newmark Journalism school will offer workshops to train journalists on topics from how AI systems can shape health, social and financial policy, to analyzing who benefits and who is affected by how algorithms are coded. The program will include a help desk that can guide journalists on technical issues and questions as they report their stories. The trainings will be available to community journalists in New York City and niche journalists from other parts of the U.S. can apply to attend workshops. The Newmark school will also produce a primer on AI, which will be published in multiple languages.

Project: Automating Public Accountability with AI
Organization: Legal Robot
Award: $100,000

Legal Robot will create a free research tool that journalists and the public can use to find and analyze government contracts, so that they may better understand how public entities use the people’s resources. Legal Robot will use public records laws to request a large set of city, county and state contracts, then automate the extraction and analysis of the data with its machine learning tools. The project will then post both a database and create data visualizations for the public to scrutinize. Visualizations will be created in partnership with TLM Works, a web development training program at the San Quentin prison. The project’s goal is to promote government transparency by providing journalists with the tools and data they need to discover links between government and their contractors, and to scrutinize any fraud, waste, or abuse.

Project: Tattle: Promoting Public Awareness and Combating Misinformation on WhatsApp
Organization: Tattle Civic Technologies
Award: $100,000

In India, as in other developing countries, WhatsApp is one of the most widely-used social media platforms. Information including misinformation spreads quickly on the platform. The effects can be far ranging — from changes in people’s health choices to greater social tension in communities and in extreme cases violence against individuals. Tattle aims to support and scale existing fact-checking efforts by creating channels for sourcing content from WhatsApp users; using machine learning to categorize and classify multilingual, multimedia content circulated on chat apps; and distributing fact checked information so that is accessible to mobile-first audience. In the process Tattle aims to enable more transparent research on misinformation in closed networks.

Project: Robustly Detecting DeepFakes
Organization: Rochester Institute of Technology
Award: $100,000

Researchers at the Rochester Institute of Technology will design and evaluate some of the first approaches for robustly and automatically detecting deepfake videos. These detection techniques will combine vision, audio, and language information, including the synthesis of all three for a comprehensive detection that will be much harder to fool. Videos will be labeled with an “integrity score,” signaling to professionals and consumers where media may have been manipulated. A browser extension will color-code the videos for users depending on their score.

Project: Ethics of Algorithms in Latin America
Organization: Chequeado
Award: $75,000

Chequeado will partner with newsrooms around Latin America to produce an in-depth investigative series on the ethical issues surrounding the implementation of artificial intelligence in the region. Additionally, Chequeado will train local journalists how to cover these emerging technologies and produce a guide with recommendations for journalists covering AI and other relevant issues. This work will be shared within the major journalist networks in Latin America.

The Ethics and Governance in 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.

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