Dynamics of Social Harms in an Algorithmic Context

Abstract

Growing evidence suggests that the affordances of algorithms can reproduce socially embedded bias and discrimination, increase the information asymmetry and power imbalances in socio‑economic relations. We conceptualise these affordances in the context of socially mediated mass harms. We argue that algorithmic technologies may not alter what harms arise but, instead, affect harms qualitatively—that is, how and to what extent they emerge and on whom they fall. Using the example of three well-documented cases of algorithmic failures, we integrate the concerns identified in critical algorithm studies with the literature on social harm and zemiology. Reorienting the focus from socio‑economic to socio-econo-technological structures, we illustrate how algorithmic technologies transform the dynamics of social harm production on macro and meso levels by: (1) systematising bias and inequality; (2) accelerating harm propagation on an unprecedented scale; and (3) blurring the perception of harms.

 

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Except where otherwise noted, content in this journal is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Published: 2022-03-01
Pages:182 to 195
Section:Part 2: Rethinking the Technology-Harm Nexus
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How to Cite
Malik, H. M., Viljanen, M. ., Lepinkäinen, N., & Alvesalo-Kuusi, A. . (2022). Dynamics of Social Harms in an Algorithmic Context. International Journal for Crime, Justice and Social Democracy, 11(1), 182-195. https://doi.org/10.5204/ijcjsd.2141

Author Biographies

University of Turku
 Finland

Hanna Maria Malik, Postdoctoral Researcher at the UTU Faculty of Law (UTULAW), has studied social harms generated at the state-corporate-technology nexus and regulatory responses to these harms, through comparative legal and qualitative empirical methodologies. Malik focuses particularly on adverse effects of otherwise socially desirable processes such as digitalisation in public and private domain, flexibilization of labour and Europeanization, as well as the ambiguity of their regulation.

University of Turku
 Finland

Mika Viljanen, Assistant Professor of private law at UTULAW. His experience spans both the legal theory of AI and industry-oriented research on particular AI applications. Viljanen’s research interests include algorithmic liability, new materialism, and the relationships between law, technology and economy.

University of Turku
 Finland

Nea Lepinkäinen, Doctoral Candidate at UTULAW, studies AI and autonomous systems and the problems they may cause in the legal field, especially in the fields of criminal law and criminology.

Her expertise lies in liability questions and harms following from the lack of regulation. She has been working to increase public knowledge on the topic alongside with the Turku AI Society.

University of Turku
 Finland

Anne Alvesalo-Kuusi, Vice Dean of Research at the UTU Faculty of Law (UTULAW) and Professor of the sociology of law, has studied extensively in the area of economic and corporate crime control and criminal policy. In particular, her studies have focused on the problems of policing safety crimes and corporate criminal liability.  Her areas of interst also include the critical analyses of  law-making.  She is the European editor of Journal of White Collar and Corporate Crime.