Project to counter misinformation receives Meta Foundational Integrity Research funding

Meta logo on phone screen

Project to counter misinformation receives Meta Foundational Integrity Research funding

Author Kathy Nickels
Date 30 March 2023

ARC Centre of Excellence for Automated Decision-Making and Society (ADM+S) researcher Dr Silvia Montaña-Niño and her colleagues have been awarded funding from Meta’s Foundational Integrity Research for their comparative study which seeks to counter misinformation in the Southern Hemisphere.

Meta’s Foundational Integrity Research request for proposals (RFP) was launched in September 2022 and attracted 503 proposals from 349 universities and institutions around the world. 

A total of $1,000,000 USD funding was awarded to research that would enrich the understanding of challenges related to integrity issues on social media and social technology platforms.

The project Countering misinformation in the Southern Hemisphere: A comparative study to be will be led by Dr Michelle Riedlinger (QUT) with colleagues Dr Silvia Montaña-Niño (QUT), Dr Marina Joubert (Stellenbosch University), and Assoc. Prof Víctor García-Perdomo (Universidad de La Sabana) was one of 11 projects to receive the funding. 

Dr Michelle Riedlinger from the School of Communication at QUT is leading the project.

“We have an amazing team of researchers from Australia, Latin America and Africa involved in this project and we’re keen to get started,” says Dr Riedlinger.

The project will investigate what fact checkers are doing in regions outside of North America and Europe.

Dr Silvia Montaña-Niño, research fellow at the ADM+S Centre at QUT, says “We’ve done some initial work and found that fact checkers are packaging their content into reusable ‘checktainment’ explainer formats using video, memes, and infographics to engage local social media users. We’re keen to explore the regional differences a bit more.”

Through the research funding, Meta aims to support the growth of scientific knowledge and contribute to a shared understanding across the broader scientific community and technology industry on how social technology companies can better address integrity issues on their platforms. 

“We are excited to grant these awards to cultivate new knowledge on integrity and establish deeper connections with global social science researchers,” says Umer Farooq, Director of Research for Integrity at Meta.


Edward Small selected for research program at the University of Bristol

Edward Small presenting poster at the 2022 ADM+S Symposium

Edward Small selected for research program at the University of Bristol

Author Kathy Nickels
Date 27 March 2023

Edward Small, higher degree research student at the ARC Centre for Excellence for Automated Decision-Making and Society (ADM+S), RMIT University has been selected to undertake a four-month research program with Machine Learning and Computer Vision (MaVi) at the University of Bristol.

Applicants for this program are selected based on their academic excellence, previous experiences and references. 

Edward will receive supervision and support from Associate Professor Raul Santos-Rodriguez, to develop explainable Artificial Intelligence (XAI) tools in collaboration with Bristol General Hospital. 

Edward says he is incredibly excited to work with the University of Bristol and Prof. Raul Santos-Rodriguez. 

“Being a top 10 UK institution, and part of the Russel Group, Bristol has a strong track record in AI research that I hope to contribute to, and Raul is a leading researcher in human-centric machine learning and explainability,” he said

“I expect I will learn a lot, and I hope to come back to Australia to apply this new knowledge in innovative ways. I am very lucky to be a part of a centre like ADM+S, without whom an opportunity like this would be impossible to take up.”

At the ADM+S Edward researches fairness, explainability, and transparency in automated decision-making with supervisors Prof Flora Salim, Dr Jeffrey Chan and Dr Kacper Sokol. 

His research examines the robustness and stability of current fairness strategies, and looks to resolve the mathematical conflict between group fairness and individual fairness. Edward’s work also looks at the scalability of automated explanations for machine learning models and questions whether explainable artificial intelligence induces fairness and utility or reduces it.

Edward will receive support from the ADM+S and Bristol University to undertake this research program.


Dr Kacper Sokol visits Università della Svizzera italiana to deliver new course on machine learning explainability

Dr Kacper Sokol visits Università della Svizzera italiana to deliver new course on machine learning explainability

Author Kathy Nickels
Date 27 March 2023

Research Fellow Dr Kacper Sokol from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Automated Decision-Making and Society (ADM+S), RMIT University has recently visited Università della Svizzera italiana (USI) in Lugano, Switzerland to deliver training on machine learning explainability.

The training was developed to bridge the gap between the theoretical and practical aspects of explainability and interpretability of predictive models based on artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms, and builds upon Dr Sokol’s research in this area. 

Dr Sokol says that the course differs from others that commonly take an abstract approach. 

“It takes an adversarial perspective and breaks these techniques up into core functional blocks, studies their role and configuration, and reassembles them to create bespoke explainers with well-understood properties, thus making them suitable for the problem at hand,” he said.

The course was offered along with other training opportunities available to postgraduate students from the informatics department at USI. 

“Given its good reception and high modularity of the teaching materials, it will be adapted to support a variety of future training sessions,” said Dr Skolol.

The course resources are available online at Machine Learning Explainability: Exploring Automated Decision-Making Through Transparent Modelling and Peeking Inside Black Boxes.

This training is the most recent output stemming from Dr Sokol’s ongoing collaboration with Professor Marc Langheinrich and his Ubiquitous Computing Research Group at USI. Together they work on advancing explainability and interpretability of machine learning models. They recently presented BayCon: Model-agnostic Bayesian Counterfactual Generator at the 31st International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence 2022 (IJCAI-22) in Vienna, Austria.


ADM+S partners with Sydney Law School to present the 2023 Sydney Innovation Program

Credit: Riley Vaughan, University of Sydney

ADM+S partners with Sydney Law School to present the 2023 Sydney Innovation Program

Author Natalie Campbell
Date 27 March 2023

In February 2023, the ARC Centre of Excellence for Automated Decision Making and Society (ADM+S) partnered with Sydney Law School to deliver the Sydney Innovation Program, bringing together a diverse and interdisciplinary group of students to critically investigate automated solutions in finance, justice, sustainability, and healthcare.

ADM+S Research Fellow Dr Jose-Miguel Bello y Villarino was a co-convenor of the 2023 program, and a mentor for the students throughout the process.

“It does not stop surprising me how much participants evolve in their views, attitude and knowledge in such a short period of time,” he said.

To kick off the program, the ADM+S Centre provided information and materials to all participants to consider key priorities when developing automated solutions. ADM+S Chief Investigator Prof Kimberlee Weatherall also contributed to the program, highlighting a regulatory perspective on ADM innovations with a presentation on ‘Responsible Automation’.

Amongst the winning team of six was ADM+S alumni Arundhati Ajith. Arundhati’s team developed a proposal to incorporate automated decision-making (ADM) in beach lifesaving to identify rips, dangerous surf conditions and drownings. Their concept used computer vision and machine learning to assist lifesavers in their efforts to patrol hazardous conditions and struggling swimmers along expansive sealines; all critical issues contributing to Australia’s alarming number of ocean drownings.

Arundhati Ajith was a 2022 ADM+S Summer Research Assistant Program member, leveraging that experience and innovative mindset to develop a winning idea, and lead her team’s final presentation.

“The interdisciplinary nature of the program encouraged us to work with people from vastly different academic backgrounds, who have different approaches to solving the same problem.

It was the knowledge sharing facilitated by the Sydney Innovation Program and ADM+S that ultimately led to our success, and continues to inform our business going forward,” she said.

The three-week program culminated in a presentation to an expert panel, including the Honourable Justice François Kunc of the Supreme Court of NSW, Helen Mayhew, Partner at QuantumBlack, AI by McKinsey, Professor Bronitt, Dean of Sydney law SchoolProfessor, and ADM+S Chief Investigator Professor Flora Salim.

Members of the winning team received a four-month residency and membership with the Sydney Knowledge Hub.


More-than-Human Wellbeing Exhibition at UNSW Sydney

Brown dirt path amongst green trees
(Pexels: Pat Whelen)

More-than-Human Wellbeing Exhibition at UNSW Sydney

Author Loren Dela Cruz
Date 24 March 2023

Launching this May at UNSW Sydney, a new exhibition More-than-Human draws on several research studies conducted at the ADM+S Centre’s UNSW node and the Vitalities Lab.

The exhibition uses multimodal arts-based and multisensory methods – both digital and non-digital – to highlight ways of knowing and being within and beyond the world of self-tracking apps, electronic medical records, and smart devices for documenting illnesses and promoting health and wellbeing.

Through installation artworks and multisensory displays, this exhibition seeks to attune visitors to their role in more-than-human ecologies and how their health and wellbeing and that of the planet is entangled. It shows that digital software, data, and devices are only part of the manifold ways that people learn about their bodies and their health. It acknowledges that human health is always more-than-human health, and that natural and human-made objects and spaces are intertwined.

More-than-Human has been developed by ADM+S researchers Prof Deborah Lupton, Dr Vaughan Wozniak-O’Connor, Dr Megan Rose, and Dr Ash Watson in collaboration with the Vitalities Lab, Centre for Social Research in Health, Social Policy Research Centre, Faculty of Arts, Design & Architecture, UNSW Sydney, Health Consumers NSW and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Automated Decision-Making & Society (ADM+S).

Exhibition dates: From Monday 22 May to Friday 18 August 2023, UNSW Main Library Level 5
Opening event: Monday 29 May, 5pm, UNSW Main Library Level 5


The Australian Ad Observatory uncovering the hidden world of targeted advertising

Create an Ad screen on Facebook

The Australian Ad Observatory uncovering the hidden world of targeted advertising

Author Kathy Nickels
Date 23 March 2023

Millions of Australians are exposed to online advertising every day as they use social media and browse the internet. Advertisers on these platforms target audiences using a mix of data and profile information gathered from our activities online, but there is little publicly available knowledge about who is being targeted by which advertisers.

The Australian Ad Observatory project conducted at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Automated Decision-Making and Society (ADM+S) is working to understand the hidden world of advertising by asking volunteers to donate their Facebook ads.

Professor Daniel Angus, one of the Chief Investigators on the project, says the problem with online advertising is that it is hidden from public view, and so it may break the rules that have been put in place to prevent consumer harm, without being noticed.

“We are seeing ads that have been able to slip through the net because humans aren’t involved in making judgements,” he says. 

“The concern there is that if these ads can slip through the net, what other forms of advertising are also making their way through that, that maybe perhaps in violation of existing codes and practices?”

Over the past year more than 2,000 volunteers have donated their ads to the Australian Ad Observatory. 

This research benefits our understanding of platform-based advertising and is enabling independent research into the role that algorithmically targeted advertising plays in society.  

Online Casinos (ABC)

The ABC recently partnered with the Australian Ad Observatory to find gambling ads that were illegally targeting Australians on Facebook. This report asks who should be responsible for monitoring illegal online advertising and whether advertising rules can be better enforced by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACAM).  

Read more:  Online casinos based offshore are illegally targeting Australians on Facebook. Who is responsible?

The issue of gambling advertising was raised in parliament this week by Senator David Pocock who asked whether the government was aware that Australians are being exposed, on their social media feeds, to illegal advertisements from online casinos?

Senator Watt, currently representing the Minister for Communications, said “Australians are  concerned about the growing proliferation of gambling advertising on online platforms. There are of course particular concerns when it comes to the risk around those advertisements being accessed by children.”

“There are additional concerns about the risk of online gambling advertisements to the adult population as well.”

“The government does recognise there is ongoing community concern about harms associated with online gambling, and that’s exactly why we have established an inquiry into online gambling and its impacts on those experiencing gambling harm.”

“Greenwashing” Advertising (CPRC)

Through the Australian Ad Observatory, the Consumer Policy Research Centre (CPRC) has undercovered online advertisements that use vague and misleading environmental and sustainability claims in their messaging to consumers.
Findings from this research will be used to inform regulators and policy makers about addressing unsubstantiated green claims.

Read more: Research investigates “greenwashing” advertising on social media

Alcohol Advertising (FARE)
The Ad Observatory project will be working with the Foundation for Alcohol Research & Education (FARE) to provide further analysis on the content of alcohol advertisements on social media.

A recent report released by FARE revealed that 39,820 distinct alcohol ads were placed on Facebook and Instagram last year, often combined with a button prompting users to “shop now”.

Through a search of Meta’s ad library, FARE found that big brands placed an average of 765 alcohol ads each week on the Meta platforms.

The report Alcohol advertising on social media: a 1-year snapshot, found that alcohol advertising on Instagram and Facebook is intrinsically linked to the online sale and delivery of alcohol directly into the home.

Meta’s ad library enabled insight into the amount and type of content being distributed by alcohol advertisers on Meta platforms, however it failed to provide information on advertising targeting, spend and reach of advertisements (except for political advertisements).

By partnering with the Australian Ad Observatory, FARE will further it’s investigation into alcohol advertising to develop a holistic understanding of alcohol marketing on these platforms, including understanding how often people are exposed to these advertisements and the ways in which people are being targeted with alcohol advertising on these platforms.

Read more: Alcohol companies ply community with 40,000 alcohol advertisements a year on Facebook and Instagram

Alongside the work with ABC, CPRC and FARE, the Australian Ad Observatory project will be using the ad collection to investigate consumer finance advertising, and advertising of unhealthy foods.

The Australian Ad Observatory has already collected over 700,000 advertisements from 2,000 volunteers, but is still looking for more people to sign up. A large pool of diverse participants of different ages, backgrounds and from different parts of Australia will help us better understand how particular groups in society are being targeted with particular kinds of ads.

To find out more and join the project visit The Australian Ad Observatory


Research investigates “greenwashing” advertising on social media

A washing machine with green earth landscape inside

Research investigates “greenwashing” advertising on social media

Author Kathy Nickels
Date 8 March 2023

Researchers from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Automated Decision-Making and Society (ADM+S) are uncovering vague and misleading green advertising on social media, with the help of the Australian consumers who are being targeted.

So far researchers have observed that many advertisers, especially those in the clothing and footwear, personal care, and food and food packaging industries, market themselves with green claims.

Many of these claims are vague and unsubstantiated, and have the potential to mislead consumers.

Professor Christine Parker, Chief Investigator at the ADM+S Centre, says the practice of making misleading claims about a product’s environmental sustainability, known as “greenwashing”, is likely to be on the rise.

Increased consumer demand for more sustainable products, increased understanding of the need for business to take action on the climate crisis, and the need to shift to a circular economy are likely to be driving green claims.

“Some advertisers are using vague wording alongside green imagery to give an impression of environmental action – but with no clear information and substantiation of exactly what the company is doing to achieve its environmental and climate promises or how the product is contributing to a circular economy,” says Professor Parker.

In a recent audit, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) found that more than half of organisations advertising online made concerning claims about their environmental or sustainability practices.

The Consumer Policy and Research Centre (CPRC) found similar results in a 24-hour sweep of online advertising conducted last year. The CPRC also found that many consumers believe some authority is checking green claims before they are made – which is not in fact the case.

“Conscientious consumers may well be targeted with a whole string of green ads that make them feel like business is doing the right thing and we are on a good environmental path”

“But this might be a completely misleading impression. Many of these claims may not be substantiated.”

In collaboration with the Consumer Policy Research Centre (CPRC), the ADM+S Centre is investigating whether Facebook users are seeing ads that are misleading, harmful or unlawful.

This research is conducted through the Centre’s Australian Ad Observatory, a project that relies on citizen scientists to share the ads that they see on Facebook.

“This approach is important because it gives us a way to see how Facebook advertising is targeted to individual users – a practice that is normally hidden from public view and regulatory scrutiny,“ says Professor Parker.

The recent ACCC report investigated green claims made in publicly visible online advertising, while research by the ADM+S Centre will help uncover advertising usually hidden from public scrutiny.

Professor Parker says “it is possible that advertisers could engage in less responsible advertising practices on social media where they are less likely to face regulatory scrutiny.”

Researchers are investigating how frequently consumers are targeted with green advertising, and how misleading these claims are. Findings from this research will be used to inform regulators and policy makers about addressing unsubstantiated green claims.

Australians are invited to join this research project by visiting The Australian Ad Observatory website.

The ARC Centre of Excellence for Automated Decision-Making and Society (ADM+S) is funded by the Australian Government through the Australian Research Council.

View the original media release