Problematic Machine Behavior: A Systematic Literature Review of Algorithm Audits

Bandy, Jack Artificial Intelligence 

While algorithm audits are growing rapidly in commonality and public importance, relatively little scholarly work has gone toward synthesizing prior work and strategizing future research in the area. This systematic literature review aims to do just that, following PRISMA guidelines in a review of over 500 English articles that yielded 62 algorithm audit studies. The studies are synthesized and organized primarily by behavior (discrimination, distortion, exploitation, and misjudgement), with codes also provided for domain (e.g. search, vision, advertising, etc.), organization (e.g. Google, Facebook, Amazon, etc.), and audit method (e.g. sock puppet, direct scrape, crowdsourcing, etc.). The review shows how previous audit studies have exposed public-facing algorithms exhibiting problematic behavior, such as search algorithms culpable of distortion and advertising algorithms culpable of discrimination. Based on the studies reviewed, it also suggests some behaviors (e.g. discrimination on the basis of intersectional identities), domains (e.g. advertising algorithms), methods (e.g. code auditing), and organizations (e.g. Twitter, TikTok, LinkedIn) that call for future audit attention. The paper concludes by offering the common ingredients of successful audits, and discussing algorithm auditing in the context of broader research working toward algorithmic justice.

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