Which videos does YouTube's recommender system suggest to users during the german election campaign? In the frist research project hostet on the data donation platform “Dataskop”, researchers and journalists investigate how users' watch histories influence the platform’s recommendations and search results. From 15 July until 25 August, users can donate their data and explore the algorithm in data visualization experiments. Researchers and Journalists will analyse users ‘real’ data in order to spot patterns in YouTube’s recommendation and search result algorithm, and the role personalization plays here. Does the system recommend journalistic news around the election campaign, or are users led away to other suggested videos?
The website and client are currently only available in German.
Data donations have become a valid method to investigate the way algorithmic systems work – even without having direct access to them. Users can donate their data individually, for example when using social media platforms, credit scoring services or when shopping online. In this way it is possible to shed light on the black-box algorithms of these systems and to understand how they render recommendations, evaluations and decisions. The project DataSkop provides an infrastructure for this purpose. The aim of the project is to empower individuals to handle their data in an informed way, to act safely in digital environments, and to understand and algorithmic systems in use.
Newsrooms, research institutions and NGOs can use DataSkop to analyze algorithmic decision-making systems on the basis of data donations. To minimize the technical hurdles for such investigations, we are establishing DataSkop as a platform that offers a large part of the required functionality from the ground up. Institutions and organizations can use DataSkop to carry out their own data donation projects and to encourage data donors to participate. The donated data itself is collected in compliance with data protection regulations and can then be accessed by the initiators of the particular project.
DataSkop is a joint project, lead and coordinated by AlgorithmWatch. In cooperation with the European New School of Digital Studies (European University Viadrina), we implemented our first own data donation project to investigate YouTubes recommendation algorithm. The Department of Design of the University of Applied Sciences Potsdam developed the visualization concepts. The University of Paderborn and the organization Mediale Pfade will develop media pedagogical concepts and workshops in which DataSkop will be used as a learning tool. The three-year project is funded by Germany’s Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) as part of the program “Mensch-Technik-Interaktion” (human-technology interaction).
Looking for ideas for data donation projects
We are already looking for further research projects to host on DataSkop. If you are interested in carrying out a data donation project with your organization, newsroom or research institution, please contact us! We are happy to support you in the development and implementation.
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based on a resolution of the German Bundestag