MAY 21 | Breaking Through Barriers to Usable Science on Tech and AI Policy

Tuesday, May 21, 2024
12:00 PM - 1:00 PM

Moghadam Room 123, 615 Crothers Way on Stanford Campus.

  • Dr. J. Nathan Matias
nate matias

Join the Cyber Policy Center on May 21st from Noon–1PM Pacific with speaker Dr. J. Nathan Matias founder of the Citizens and Technology Lab and assistant professor in the Cornell University Department of Communication, for Breaking Through Barriers to Usable Science on Tech and AI Policy. The session will be moderated by Jeff Hancock co director of the Stanford Cyber Policy Center, and is part of the Spring Seminar Series, a series spanning April through June hosted at the Cyber Policy Center. Sessions are in-person and virtual, via Zoom and streamed via YouTube, with in-person attendance offered to Stanford affiliates only. Lunch is provided for in-person attendance and registration is required. Sessions will take place in Encina Commons, Moghadam Room 123, 615 Crothers Way on Stanford Campus.

From online safety to AI discrimination, debates in tech policy often hinge on evidence about cause, effect, harms, and remedies. In theory, reliable evidence could inform substantive improvements in people’s lives and effective interventions from tech companies or governments. Yet despite technology platforms enabling unprecedented levels of social data collection and experimentation, science has not been able to deliver a commensurate amount of reliable, repeatable, actionable evidence for the common good.

In this talk, which will focus on the problem of  gender based violence and discrimination by AI and social platforms, Matias will summarize leading barriers to a usable science of tech policy. These include perverse incentives for tech firms to resist science, historical biases in science itself, incomplete pathways for the use of evidence, and challenges in scientific theory and methods. Through a series of case studies and field experiments conducted in collaboration with communities of tens of millions of people, Matias will argue that scientific progress on tech policy depends on pathways for the public to exercise leadership in the development, implementation, and use of scientific evidence about our digital lives.

Optional readings:


Nathan is founder of the Citizens and Technology Lab and an assistant professor in the Cornell University Department of Communication. CAT Lab has worked with communities of tens of millions of people on reddit, Wikipedia, and Twitter to test ideas for preventing harassment, broadening gender diversity on social media, responding to human/algorithmic misinformation, managing political conflict, and auditing social technologies. His research has been published in Nature, PNAS, Nature Human Behavior, FACCT, CHI, CSCW, and many other venues in computer science and the social sciences.

Nathan is also a pioneer in industry-independent evaluations on the impact of social technologies and artificial intelligence in society. Toward this end, he co-founded the Coalition for Independent Technology Research, a nonprofit that supports and defends independent research on technology and society.Nathan has also held positions at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University, the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, the Princeton University Center for Information Technology Policy, the Berkman Klein Center at Harvard University, and the MIT Center for Civic Media. Nathan has received numerous honors in academia, industry, journalism, and nonprofits. In 2023, he was awarded the Mozilla Rise25 award for research and policy work for a fairer, more ethical Internet. He is recipient of the Nelson Award from the Association for Computer Machinery and the Linda Tischler Award from FastCompany. His public-interest journalism has been published in The Atlantic, PBS, the Guardian, FiveThirtyEight, Global Voices, Boston Magazine, Adventure Cyclist, and other international media. His work is regularly covered by international media, including the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, NPR All Things Considered, WIRED, The Atlantic.