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Global dialogue on the ethics of digitalisation

17 August 2020

Today, under the patronage of the Federal President of Germany, HIIG is launching a worldwide research project

Berlin, 17 August 2020 – Today, in Schloss Bellevue, German Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier will be presiding over the launch event of the two-year project “Ethics of digitalisation – from principles to practices”. The project by the NoC (Global Network of Internet and Society Research Centers) is coordinated by the Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society (HIIG) and supported by Stiftung Mercator. In the course of the event, international experts from science, politics, civil society and business will analyse ethical questions of digitalisation, including the use of artificial intelligence and algorithms.

What criteria should be applied when programming chatbots to ensure that they communicate in a non-discriminatory way? What rules do we need when programming AI so that it increases everyone’s well-being? How can we design the algorithms that shape our society by, for example, deciding what content is visible on social media channels? The project focuses on the social impact of digitalisation and aims to generate application-oriented and practice-focused results that are societally relevant.

German Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier will be discussing these issues with Annette Schavan (Co-Chairperson of the German-Chinese Dialogue Forum), Wolfgang Rohe (Executive Director of Stiftung Mercator), Wolfgang Schulz (Research Director of HIIG and spokesperson of the European section of the NoC) and Sunimal Mendis (participant in the Ethics of Digitalisation fellow programme and Assistant Professor at the University of Tilburg).

Interdisciplinary and international research formats form the core of the project. Researchers from different disciplines are given the opportunity to work together on an interdisciplinary and international basis to develop answers to ethical questions concerning digitalisation. Furthermore, the innovative research formats give scientists the opportunity to communicate with each other and to network with high-ranking stakeholders from politics, business and society.

“The increasing use of algorithmic systems is fundamentally changing our society in all respects,” says Dr. Wolfgang Rohe, Managing Director of Stiftung Mercator. “The issue is, among other things, about how to preserve the foundations of democracy: individual and collective civil liberties, sovereignty, the revocability of decisions. This requires an informed public debate, a committed civil society and the development of proposals for political implementation. With this project, we would like to make a contribution to this.”

Coming together under the umbrella of the NoC (Global Network of Internet and Society Research Centers), the project partners include HIIG as the coordinating centre as well as the Leibniz Institute for Media Research | Hans Bredow Institute, the Berkman Klein Center at Harvard University and the Digital Asia Hub as project partners. German Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier is the patron of the project. Stiftung Mercator is supporting the project over two years with around one million euros.

Press contact: Tanja Zagel | Tel. +49 30 200 760 82 | 

About the NoC

The NoC (Global Network of Internet and Society Research Centers) is a worldwide initiative of academic institutions with a focus on interdisciplinary research on the internet and society. The aim of the initiative is to promote cooperation between the participating centres in order to promote transnational and interdisciplinary exchange on the most pressing issues in connection with new technologies.

About HIIG

The Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society (HIIG) researches the development of the internet from a societal perspective in order to better understand the associated digitalisation of all areas of life. As the first research institute in Germany with a focus on internet and society, HIIG has developed an understanding that emphasises the embedding of digital innovations in societal processes. Based on this transdisciplinary expertise and as part of the Global Network of Interdisciplinary Internet & Society Research Centers, HIIG wants to develop a European response to digital structural change.

HIIG was founded in 2011 by Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (HU), the Berlin University of the Arts (UdK) and the WZB Berlin Social Science Center, together with the Leibnitz Institute for Media Research/Hans Bredow Institute (HBI) Hamburg as an integrated cooperation partner. The institute’s research directors are Prof. Dr. Jeanette Hofmann, Prof. Dr. Björn Scheuermann, Prof. Dr. Dr. Thomas Schildhauer and Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Schulz

About Stiftung Mercator

Stiftung Mercator is a private, independent foundation. In its work, it strives to create a society that is characterised by openness to the world, solidarity and equal opportunities. In doing so, it concentrates on strengthening Europe, increasing educational success among disadvantaged children and young people, in particular those with a migration background, improving the quality and impact of cultural education, and advancing climate protection and promoting science. Stiftung Mercator advocates for the connection of scientific expertise and practical project experience. As a leading foundation in Germany, it is nationally and internationally active. It is particularly committed to the Ruhr area, the home of the founding family and the seat of the foundation.

Copyright Picture: Bundesregierung/Jesco Denzel

Tanja Zagel

ehem. Leiterin Wissenschaftskommunikation | Projektleitung: IEG

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