The Race + Data Science Lecture Series aims to celebrate and advance research in the areas of race and data, engineering, and computational science.

The first talk of the series, Elections, Online Chatter and Content Moderation, was presented on Thursday, April 15, 2021. Our guest speaker was Mutale Nkonde, founding director of AI for the People, a nonprofit communications firm that uses journalism, arts, and culture to advance racial justice in tech.

Nkonde discussed the work done by AI for the People on racially-targeted disinformation on Twitter during the 2020 Election, and the challenges they faced communicating this to trust and safety teams due to lack of know-how in industry settings regarding reading online culture through speech. The talk introduced listeners to how the environment changed from 2016 to 2020, shared findings (detailed here), and ended with recommendations on how to increase the racial literacy of computer scientists.

Nkonde writes widely on racial impacts of advanced technical systems, is a sought-after media commentator, and seeks to create a safe space for Black technologists who feel marginalized within the wider tech sector. She previously led a team that introduced the Algorithm and Deepfakes Accountability Acts and the No Biometric Barriers Act to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2019. Nkonde sits on the TikTok Content Moderation Advisory Board, advises the Center of Media, Technology and Democracy at McGill University, and is a key constituent for the United Nations 3C Roundtable on Artificial Intelligence.

Desmond Upton Patton, associate director of diversity, equity and inclusion for the Data Science Institute at Columbia University, served as moderator.