Scientists Silenced by Algorithms That They Are Studying

Scientists Silenced by Algorithms That They Are Studying

FB page of research network gets removed and their admins’ accounts disabled by Facebook as they post an event discussing research on conspiracy theories .

On March 9, the Facebook profiles of Ágnes Karolina Bakk, Cláudia Silva and Hartmut Koenitz got disabled simultaneously. What connects these three academics are their roles in the COST EU Action CA 18230 INDCOR (Interactive Narrative Design for Complexity Representations) and as admins of the network’s FB page.

The INDCOR network connects 160 researchers in 37 countries and investigates ways how interactive digital narratives can be used to combat fake news and conspiracy theories by means of multi-perspective representations of complex topics such as global warming, migration or personal reactions to the current pandemic. 

Bakk, Silva and Koenitz believe they were banned from Facebook due to the last action on the INDCOR FB page, which was an announcement of an event featuring the work of invited speakers Prof. Timothy Tangherlini (UC Berkeley), Pavan Holur (UCLA) and Shadi Shahsavar (UCLA) about the automatic detection of conspiracy theories in online communication: “An automated pipeline for the discovery of conspiracy and conspiracy theory narrative frameworks: Bridgegate, Pizzagate and storytelling on the web,”  To spread the word about the event that takes place today, a Facebook page event was created. No previous warnings or details about this decision were provided other than a vague claim about “violating community rules”.

“It is shocking to see that discussions about scientific research on this crucial aspect of contemporary political communication is removed by Facebook. This is the very type of research that can help FB combat the spread of fake news and conspiracy theories on its network.” says Koenitz. “Scientists’ voices are silenced in this way”, adds Bakk, while Silva sees this as a reminder for all of us that automation and AI systems are not the absolute answer to combat fake news, hate speech, or conspiracy theories. “These tech fixes alone do not solve the structural issues that our current society faces”, Silva stressed. All three ask FB to investigate the issue and hope that their personal accounts as well the INDCOR page will be quickly reinstated. 

Bakk is the chair for short-term scientific missions, Silva is a co-chair in the workgroup for societal impact and Koenitz is the general chair. Furthermore, the three are admins of INDCOR’s Facebook page categorized as a “Science page.”


Dr. José Manuel Noguera Vivo INDCOR communications chair jmnoguera@gmail.com (English, Spanish)

Dr. Hartmut Koenitz INDCOR general chair hkoenitz@gmail.com (English, German)

Dr. Cláudia Silva INDCOR WG4 co-chair and communication team member (English, Portuguese, Spanish) – silvaclaudia01@gmail.com

Ágnes Karolina Bakk, PhD Cand. INDCOR STSM chair (English, Hungarian, Romanian) bakkagnes@gmail.com