Fake news? Why we must take responsibility

6 September 2017

In an age of ‘fake news’, algorithms and artificial intelligence, it is more essential than ever that information professionals take responsibility for the ethical dimensions of their work. From the language we use in taxonomy terms, to how we classify things or even people, we need to be aware of how our work could be used and misused.

Three real experts discuss the ethics of taxonomy at next month’s Taxonomy Boot Camp in London. We caught up with them to get their take on this relevant topic, and find out what they will be exploring in their session, Language is rarely neutral: why the ethics of taxonomies matter.

Matt Hollidge, Director - Kore, UK: “Language matters; and not just for clickthroughs, conversions and commerce. How we choose to name and categorise projects a worldview, whether that be our own, our employer's or our sector's; and that, rightly or wrongly, is by nature biased and perhaps, we just have to own that tension.

   “As taxonomists and information architects, are we aware of the power our daily decisions have when we name and categorise and do we have an ethical responsibility when choosing what things are called? Are we obligated to educate in meaning, convey understanding and supply context; to choose our synonyms and related-terms with care and intent, mediating for what is true even at the expense of good business sense?”

Emily Overton, RMGirl - RMGirl Consulting, UK: “The language we choose to adopt has greater implications for our stakeholders; whether they be customers, patients, service users, whomever. Record keeping in a gender fluid world where you categorise someone as being a binary sex can lead to further issues down the line.  We set classifications up based on an experience within the room, but is there more to be considered? Do we need to open our minds for every eventuality?  Going forward, what impact is that going to have for people like the transgender and gay community under General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)?  Will we see cases for rectification and right to erasure, and what impact will that have on the integrity of our records or our taxonomies? Is it something that is going to cost millions to fix or is there a happy [middle] ground?”

Theresa RegliChief Strategy Officer - KlarisIP, USA: “What we name things and how we categorise something can have profound impact on people's ability to find, understand, and monetise content. I'm planning to explore the impact of nomenclature and how it has changed content delivery in a world of fake news, social media, and personal profiling.”






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