Welcome to ACM FAccT 2021! Much has changed since last years’ proceedings. We are all bearing witness to an unprecedented global pandemic due to novel Coronavirus disease, coupled with rising social and economic inequality, a global resurgence of xenophobia and an exacerbation of racial and ethnic disparities and injustices. In the midst of this epoch of profound instability, the conference continues to serve as a hub for critical research into fairness, accountability, and transparency of socio-technical systems. As in prior years, our goal has been to maintain a high standard for computer science research, as well as to extend the focus on social sciences and humanities research. For 2021, we have also sought to put a particular emphasis on diversifying conference leadership at every level, expanding our community of peer-reviewers and developing programming, including new plenary panel sessions, from disciplines and regions that have been historically underrepresented in the conference.
In addition to the change of name, the fourth year of the conference has brought a fundamental shift in the conference experience. Transitioning to a virtual conference has been an exciting opportunity, as well as a new challenge. This year’s virtual setting presents an opportunity to foster a more diverse and inclusive global research community. We will be hosting paper presentations of 82 papers based in over 15 countries and 14 timezones. We also continued the conference's strong commitment to equity, offering significantly reduced conference registration prices for students and attendees from underrepresented countries, offering innovative internet bandwidth and carers’ grants to support attendees faced with greater personal and professional demands during the pandemic. FAccT, as a relatively new conference centered on an area of multi-disciplinary inquiry, is always an ever evolving endeavor. Our community continues to grow and change, but we are united in our aims of investigating topics of fairness, accountability and transparency (broadly construed), and the socio-technical conditions and implications of computational systems.
This year’s Program Co-chairs, Lilly Irani, Meg Mitchell, David Robinson, and Sampath Kannan reflect the rich multi-disciplinarity of our community. They represent a diverse range of perspectives on the FAccT field, spanning not only computer science, social science and law but also academia, industry, civil society, and community organizing. The ACM FAccT 2021 call for papers reflected this diversity and encouraged investigations that not only extend current research but also investigate core assumptions and propose alternative designs, practices, and policies. We are immensely grateful to the Program Co-chairs, as well as the Area Chairs, and Program Committee for their expertise, attention, and care in shaping this year’s Technical Research Program. We also thank our Proceedings Co-chairs, Souneil Park and Min Lee, for their essential but behind the scenes work that allows submissions to become published ACM proceedings.
In addition to our Technical Research Program, this year we continued to hold Tutorials and CRAFT tracks. Tutorials sessions, chaired by Tiberio Caetano, Sam Corbett-Davies, and Zack Lipton, aim to introduce technical, policy, regulatory, ethical, or social science aspects of FAccT issues for a broad audience. The goal of tutorials, whether introducing methods, presenting a broad overview of an application domain, or a deep dive on a case study, is to educate and broaden the perspective of our interdisciplinary community. We received a wide-range of over 37 proposals, following a public call, and the Tutorials co-chairs selected 13 to be presented during three parallel tracks. The Tutorials co-chairs also invited four tutorial sessions from leading scholars in their respective fields.
CRAFT sessions, chaired by Miranda Bogen, Alex Hanna, and Lassana Magassa, compliment Tutorials sessions by explicitly pushing the boundaries of FAccT as a field of study and a community of practice. CRAFT, which stands for Critiquing and Rethinking Accountability, Fairness and Transparency, issued a public call for proposals, particularly encouraging contributions that explored the problem space in greater depth and from broader perspectives, in addition to exploring solution spaces, indicating mechanisms for positive change, and opening possibilities for a greater conversation around countering automated injustices. We received over 24 proposed sessions following a public call, and 10 will be presented during three parallel tracks on the day following Tutorials. CRAFT sessions aim to explore the boundaries of online conference engagement, to encourage interaction among participants, and to foster community building, collaborative knowledge production, and future engagement.
The Doctoral Colloquium, chaired by Peaks Krafft and Ben Green offers doctoral students doing research on fairness, accountability, and transparency in relation to socio-technical systems a unique opportunity to engage in substantive interaction with their peers and with experienced researchers regarding their research and career objectives. A total of 96 applications to participate were received, and 84 were selected alongside 23 mentors recruited to participate in the colloquium. Participants were grouped into thematic cohorts to encourage cross-disciplinary conversations.
This year, we have sought to maintain familiar formats while also experimenting with new modes of participation, connection, and engagement among conference participants. This work has been led by our phenomenal Virtual Experience Co-chairs, Sarah M. Brown and Maya Richman, and we thank them for their pioneering leadership in this area. We also are grateful to our Diversity and Inclusion Chair, Maria De-Arteaga, who has enriched our efforts to provide an inclusive and welcoming space for diverse communities, especially those who have been previously underrepresented at the conference. Our events management partner, Executivevents, has been essential in developing our online platform and managing conference logistics, and our Volunteers Coordinator, Orestis Papakyriakopoulos has been a tremendous help in organizing our volunteers. While we will miss gathering in person, moving online provides an additional way to lower barriers to conference participation and prioritize racial equity, diversity, inclusion, and climate justice.
Thanks to the generosity of our sponsors and many of our attendees, we were able to offer significantly subsidized rates for all attendees from low and middle income countries, and to offer internet band-width grants and carer grants. Our many thanks thus go to our financial supporters: DeepMind, Facebook, Ford Foundation, IBM, Luminate, MacArthur Foundation, Microsoft, OpenAI, Sloan Foundation, and Twitter and to the huge effort by Michael Eckstrand and Bendert Zevenbergen in developing these sponsorships.
Our Publicity Co-chairs Deb Inioluwa Deborah Raji and Abeba Birhane contributed significantly to maintaining and expanding the conference’s visibility. We are also thankful to Hanlin Li for designing our conference logo and to Irene Nandutu for being our steadfast webmaster.
Thank you for attending ACM FAccT 2021. This has been a difficult year for so many, and we are particularly grateful to all the members of our community who volunteered their time to review, organize, and participate in this year’s conference. The issues that we as a community center in our work are more important than ever, and our community must strive both for the highest standards of scholarly rigor as well as seek to learn from, respect, and honor the people impacted by the systems we study.
Madeleine Clare Elish, William Isaac, and Richard Zemel ACM FAccT 2021 General Chairs
As Program Chairs (PC), we welcome you to the fourth year of the ACM Conference on Fairness, Accountability, and Transparency (FAccT* 2021). This year’s program extends FAccT’s work to be an inclusive, uniquely interdisciplinary, and rigorous space for understanding the social impacts of algorithmic systems.
Of the 328 submissions we received, 82 were selected for presentation at the conference. The number of submissions this year is an increase from 290 submissions in 2020 and 162 submissions in 2019. This year, we welcomed papers across thematic areas of: algorithm development, data and algorithm evaluation, applications, human factors, privacy and security, law and policy, humanistic theory and critique, social and organizational processes, community-based approaches, and education. We were also indebted to lessons from last year’s CRAFT workshop, welcoming papers that critically assess fairness, accountability, and transparency as concepts and approaches.
FAccT 2021 used mutually anonymous reviewing with bidding, authors’ clarifications, and 2-6 chairs per area. After submission, each paper was reviewed by at least three members of the program committee We encouraged interdisciplinary peer review and papers that speak across the disciplinary communities that come to FAccT. Area chairs then facilitated discussion amongst reviewers, especially when scores diverged. Following discussion, chairs within each track deliberated to propose a slate of papers for acceptance. During a virtual meeting, the PC and general chairs reviewed each proposed decision and discussed borderline submissions.
This was an immense amount of work during a broadly challenging year. So many contributed to this process despite personally and collectively trying circumstances. COVID meant that reviewers and program committee members juggled intensified caregiving work and significant personal strain with the work of this conference. Some in our community were protesting for Black lives and working to heal from traumas of anti-Black violence. Some in our community worked hard to advocate for a technology industry where they could do meaningful AI ethics work. This year threw up many challenges. Many were hurting, some harmed or disrupted more directly than others. We are grateful for the many kinds of visible and invisible work of care, solidarity, and intellectual participation that made this program possible this year. The collective effort to rise to these challenges, while far from perfection, often did reflect our community’s highest ideals of scholarly rigor and mutual support.
This would not have been possible without the 232 members of our program committee and 22 external reviewers who pitched in because of their expertise or to help with emergencies. The PC was organized by area chairs: Adrian Weller, Ashia Wilson, Bo Waggoner, Daniel Neill, Ouwasanmi Koyejo, Shalmali Joshi, Silvia Chiappa, and Steven Wu as algorithm development area chairs; Christian Sandvig, Kristian Lum, Maria Y. Rodriguez, Osonde Osoba, Rumman Chouwdhury, and Timnit Gebru as data and algorithm evaluation area chairs; Abhijnan Chakraborty, Emily Bender, Matt Fredrikson, and Patrick Loiseau as applications area chairs; Cecilia Aragon, Christina Harrington, Haiyi Zhu, Jennifer Wortman Vaughan as human factors area chairs; Aloni Cohen and Rachel Cummings as privacy and security area chairs; Frederick Borgesius, Ifeoma Ajunwa, and Michael Veale as law and policy area chairs; Angela Xiao Wu, Anna Lauren Hoffman, Dan Greene, and Shannon Vallor as humanistic theory and critique area chairs; Angele Christin, Lina Dencik, and Meg Leta Jones as social and organizational processes area chairs; Min Kyung Lee as community based approaches area chair; and Casey Fiesler, Garron Hillaire, and Justin Reich as education area chairs. We would also like to thank the entire Executive Committee for their support.
We are also grateful for our General Chairs Madeleine Elish, William Isaac, and Richard Zemel for their commitment to interdisciplinarity, rigor, and inclusion.
Lilly Irani, Sampath Kannan, Meg Mitchell, David Robinson ACM FAccT 2021 Program Chairs