Algorithmic Accountability Reporting: On the Investigation of Black Boxes

This report examines the operating biases of the new power brokers in society—algorithms—and the potential for accountability practices. Given the challenges to effectively employing transparency for algorithms—namely trade secrets, the consequences of manipulation, and the cognitive overhead of complexity—journalists might effectively engage with algorithms through a process of reverse engineering to understand the input-output relationships of an algorithm and develop stories about how that algorithm operates. This report proposes a practical method by which journalists can investigate algorithms, and develops best practices around exposing algorithmic bias and making algorithms transparent.

Project lead: Nicholas Diakopoulos

Team member: Jennifer Stark

January 01, 2014