Inclusive design for a healthy digital world

Even machines and algorithms can be biased. Whether it’s Amazon’s gender-biased recruiting engine (now scrapped), Facebook’s ethnically exclusionary ad serving algorithm (also now scrapped), or the racist patient screening software developed by Optum for use by hospitals (now substantially improved), we have seen how easy it is for human bias to be baked into software design.

It’s our job to design for inclusivity, to augment artificial intelligence with human sensitivity and to shape the way modern digital experiences support everyone. 

We can point to a recent example of work done by our teams at Citizen Relations. If you’re of Asian descent, you have probably noticed that Asian names are considered an “error” and redlined in traditional word processing programs. That jagged red line is a micro-aggression, and it’s fixable through a more inclusive .dic file that makes native lexicons more inclusive. 

Recently, our teams at Citizen Relations helped Elimin8hate launch a massive campaign – – to help build a more inclusive dictionary for Asian names. It’s even made its way to Microsoft, which wants to normalize non-English identities. 

Coincidentally, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has articulated his own six principles and goals which he believes AI research should follow to keep society safe, and two of them focus on inclusivity. One is that AI must have algorithmic accountability, so that humans can undo unintended harm – exactly what we did with And the other is that AI must guard against bias, with proper and representative research to make sure AI doesn't discriminate against people like humans do (see ‘empathy in practice’ below).

Ethical Conduct

As social channels evolve, media outlets combat fake news, and Gen Z’s turn to TikTok for search more often than Google, the way marketers behave matters. Whether it’s creating safe space guidelines for campaigns on the web, or leveraging a more ethical way of buying media, it’s on us to help clients find the balance between results and ethics in a web 3 world that’s ever changing.

In 2020 the world started paying attention to media that profited by allowing hate, extremism and disinformation on their sites and in their news cycles. The ad dollars that inadvertently supported “fake news” sites, driven by programmatic spend, were contributing to the problem. 

Our client Sun Life and their partners at Cossette Media engaged NOBL, a platform that uses AI to analyze content through 30 indicators of ethical behavior. It’s designed to help buyers support higher quality sites, especially local news which, as it turns out, tends to enjoy far more trust from viewers than the big news networks. The results were astonishing. Cossette saw a 104% increase in click-through rates; a 37% decrease in the cost-per-click rate, and a 29% decrease in the cost-per-engagement rate, metrics very close to those claimed by NOBL. 

With that first successful campaign under its belt, Cossette has been talking about the tool to other clients that have expressed an interest in using it for their campaigns. Seems good ethics translate into good business.