Nicolas Kayser-Bril

Reporter

Nicolas is data journalist and working for AlgorithmWatch as a reporter. He pioneered new forms of journalism in France and in Europe and is one of the leading experts on data journalism. He regularly speaks at international conferences, teaches journalism in French journalism schools and gives training sessions in newsrooms. A self-taught journalist and developer (and a graduate in Economics), he started by doing small interactive, data-driven applications for Le Monde in Paris in 2009. He then built the data journalism team at OWNI in 2010 before co-founding and managed Journalism++ from 2011 to 2017. Nicolas is also one of the main contributors to the Datajournalism Handbook, the reference book for the popularization of data journalism worldwide.

Articles for AlgoritmWatch

Fraktion DIE LINKE |Flickr.com

Story, 6 April 2021

Europeans can’t talk about racist AI systems. They lack the words.

In Europe, several automated systems, either planned or operational, actively contribute to entrenching racism. But European civil society literally lacks the words to address the issue.

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Icons8 | Unsplash

Story, 29 March 2021

Automated translation is hopelessly sexist, but don’t blame the algorithm or the training data

Automated translation services tend to erase women or reduce them to stereotypes. Simply tweaking the training data or the models is not enough to make translations fair.

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Roel Wijnants |flickr

Story, 3 March 2021

Politicians can do well on Instagram. Political posts, less so.

An experiment by AlgorithmWatch, Groene Amsterdammer, Pointer and NOS in the Netherlands shows that Instagram probably prioritizes images of faces and pushes down images that contain text.

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Piero Nigro | Unsplash

Story, 25 February 2021

In Berlin, Google Maps and TomTom encourage car drivers to disregard the law

Routing services from TomTom and Google Maps encourage car drivers to use cycle streets, which is illegal. Both companies said they would update their databases, but this is unlikely to completely solve the problem.

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Story, 1 February 2021

The Insta-mafia: How crooks mass-report users for profit

Groups of teenagers use weaknesses in the notification systems of Facebook and Instagram to take over accounts and harass users. The upcoming DSA regulation addresses the issue but is likely to fall short.

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Story, 19 January 2021

Medical devices using AI/ML are poorly regulated: study

A review of 338 AI-powered medical devices approved in Europe and in the United States reveals holes in the European review process.

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Hartwig HKD | Flickr

Blog, 28 December 2020

The year algorithms escaped quarantine: 2020 in review

Amid the Covid pandemic, governments and corporations stepped up the deployments of automated systems. Civil society initiatives attempted to keep some of them in check.

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foodwatch | Flickr

Story, 14 December 2020

Despite transparency, the Nutri-Score algorithm faces strong resistance

The Nutri-Score summarizes basic nutritional information on a 5-letter scale. Despite its many qualities, it faces a strong backlash that could hold a lesson for operators of automated systems.

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Wynand van Poortvliet | Unsplash

Story, 25 November 2020

Dutch city uses algorithm to assess home value, but has no idea how it works

In a seemingly routine case at the Amsterdam court of appeal, a judge ruled that it was acceptable for a municipality to use a black-box algorithm, as long as the results were unsurprising.

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the blowup |Unsplash

Story, 22 October 2020

Spam filters are efficient and uncontroversial. Until you look at them.

An experiment reveals that Microsoft Outlook marks messages as spam on the basis of a single word, such as “Nigeria”. Spam filters are largely unaudited and could discriminate unfairly.

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Joshua Hoehne | Unsplash

Story, 18 October 2020

Automated discrimination: Facebook uses gross stereotypes to optimize ad delivery

An experiment by AlgorithmWatch shows that online platforms optimize ad delivery in discriminatory ways. Advertisers who use them could be breaking the law.

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Jon Russell |flickr

Story, 17 September 2020

Female historians and male nurses do not exist, Google Translate tells its European users

An experiment shows that Google Translate systematically changes the gender of translations when they do not fit with stereotypes. It is all because of English, Google says

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Jilbert Ebrahimi|Unsplash

Story, 25 August 2020

For researchers, accessing data is one thing. Assessing its quality another.

Online platforms often provide data that is riddled with errors. Rather than launching quixotic attempts at fixing them, researchers increasingly investigate why platforms bias their data.

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Jehyun Sung |Unsplash

Story, 24 August 2020

GPT-3 is a lot of fun, but no game-changer

We usually do not write about newly-released software, especially when there is no way to audit it. But the hype over GPT-3, a natural language generator, was such that several readers asked for a review.

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Thomas Stephan |Unsplash

Story, 13 August 2020

Under the Twitter streetlight: How data scarcity distorts research

As part of our #LeftOnRead campaign, several researchers testified to the reluctance of online platforms to provide useful data. Many resort to studying Twitter, which is more accommodating than most.

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Darth Liu |Unsplash

Story, 6 August 2020

In a quest to optimize welfare management, Denmark built a surveillance behemoth

Udbetaling Danmark was created in 2012 to streamline the payment of welfare benefits. Its fraud control algorithms can access the personal data of millions of citizens, not all of whom receive welfare payments.

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Boehlich |Wikimedia

Story, 22 July 2020

Swiss police automated crime predictions but has little to show for it

A review of 3 automated systems in use by the Swiss police and judiciary reveals serious issues. Real-world effects are impossible to assess due to a lack of transparency.

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Morning Brew |Unsplash (edited)

Story, 9 July 2020

Left on Read: How Facebook and others keep researchers in the dark

Internet platforms routinely deny researchers access to data or arbitrarily accede to their requests, hampering social science in the process.

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Marcus Kauffman|Unsplash

Story, 17 June 2020

Can AI mitigate the climate crisis? Not really.

Several institutions claim that AI will contribute to solving the climate crisis, but evidence is scant. On the contrary, AI has a track record of helping emit more greenhouse gases.

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NeONBRAND | Unsplash

Story, 15 June 2020

Undress or fail: Instagram’s algorithm strong-arms users into showing skin

An exclusive investigation reveals that Instagram prioritizes photos of scantily-clad men and women, shaping the behavior of content creators and the worldview of 140 millions Europeans in what remains a blind spot of EU regulations.

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Story, 3 June 2020

Ten years on, search auto-complete still suggests slander and disinformation

After a decade and a string of legal actions, an AlgorithmWatch experiment shows that search engines still suggest slanderous, false and disparaging statements.

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Story, 19 May 2020

Automated moderation tool from Google rates People of Color and gays as “toxic”

A systematic review of Google’s Perspective, a tool for automated content moderation, reveals that some adjectives are considered more toxic than others.

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Story, 14 May 2020

This man had his credit score changed from C to A+ after a few emails

A 52-year-old man in Hanover, Germany, discovered that he’d been erroneously scored by a credit bureau. His story reveals the gaps in credit score regulation.

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Luis Villasmil |Unsplash

Story, 28 April 2020

Unchecked use of computer vision by police carries high risks of discrimination

At least 11 local police forces in Europe use computer vision to automatically analyze images from surveillance cameras. The risks of discrimination run high but authorities ignore them.

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