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CDT Postdoctoral Fellow – Explainability of AI in Content Moderation

The Center for Democracy Technology (CDT) is seeking a Postdoctoral Fellow to work on developing models and tools to improve the explainability and auditability of AI-based content moderation systems. This can include systems used in classifying, filtering, and recommending content on social media and other platforms. The Fellow will prototype and test models that can improve the explainability and auditability of these tools, and lead the publication of the results and other outputs as part of the Fellowship.

Here we take explainability to be the ability to enumerate the reasons for arriving at a given result in a way that is understandable by relevant users, contextually relevant, and describes the assumptions therein. Auditability focuses on improving accountability in AI-based systems, and includes methods for identifying discrimination or other unwanted outcomes. While several proposals exist for how to address the explainability and auditability needs for AI-based systems, we want to develop, test, and prototype practical ways to improve both so that those using or affected by automated systems are better able to understand how and why a decision was reached, and so that independent researchers are better able to study the performance of such systems with respect to fundamental rights. We want to do this for a specific use case – content moderation.

The Fellow will lead the research, design, and project implementation, which can address explainability and auditability through separate research outputs. This is a one-year full-time Fellowship, with the possibility of renewal for another year based on performance and availability of funds. Limited funding is available to cover approved research expenses associated with the Fellow’s project. The Fellow is expected to produce at least 2 CDT research reports during the year, and at least 1 academic submission. In addition to the benefits and compensation described above, CDT will also provide mentorship to support career development. The expected start date for the Fellowship is January 2021. 

This is an exciting opportunity to be part of CDT’s research team, informing its policy agenda, and contributing to cutting edge tech policy dialogue in the U.S., EU, and around the world. The position also offers opportunities for identifying and leading research projects on other emerging technology policy issues, and working with CDT’s networks of external academics and partners. The position is based in CDT’s Washington, D.C. office (with remote work currently in effect due to COVID-19).

About CDT

For twenty-five years, CDT has been a leading nonprofit public interest organization, working at the cutting edge of digital rights policy. With expertise in law, technology, and policy, CDT engages in a variety of strategies to enhance civil liberties and human rights in the digital age, including advocacy, public education, and research. CDT works on legislation, participates in agency rule-makings, engages in litigation, and fosters consensus-building among public interest and private sector stakeholders. Key issue areas include free expression, privacy and data, government surveillance, cybersecurity and standards, open internet, election security, and competition.

CDT is headquartered in Washington, D.C., and collaborates closely with its partner organization, CDT Europe, which is based in Brussels. For more information, please visit our website at cdt.org.

Main Responsibilities:

  • With the research team, design and implement a project to improve the explainability and auditability of the use of AI based tools in content moderation.
  • Produce at least 2 CDT research reports and 1 academic submission based on their approved research project. 
  • Support the research team in identifying and designing other research projects that can inform the work of CDT’s policy teams; where feasible, support the implementation of these projects. 
  • Write concise and compelling analysis in a variety of formats, including blog posts, advocacy material, white papers, and reports.
  • Develop partnerships with researchers in academia, industry, and civil society to further CDT’s research agenda.
  • Work with the communications team to craft sharp, compelling messages for media and other audiences based on research outputs.
  • Work with the development team to identify and develop relevant funding proposals. 
  • Represent CDT through public speaking, participation in coalition meetings, and media interviews.

Required Qualifications:

  • A completed PhD within the last 3 years in a relevant discipline (e.g. computer/information science, engineering, economics, public policy, communication policy, etc.).
  • PhD dissertation or subsequent research related to explainability and evaluation of AI based tools used in content moderation. 
  • Demonstrated research experience in the form of peer reviewed publications or conference papers, etc. 
  • Experience and ability to work in an interdisciplinary research team. 
  • Some experience in systems design and implementation.
  • Experience in research design and implementation, including experimental and/or quantitative methods. 
  • Excellent writing skills for technical, policy, and lay audiences.
  • Genuine curiosity with an imaginative approach to research design and implementation.

Desired Qualifications

  • Excellent public speaking skills and experience that can deliver CDT’s research and policy positions to a wide range of audiences.
  • Experience preparing successful funding proposals for research.
  • Expertise in others areas of CDT’s work, including privacy, surveillance, open internet issues, and cybersecurity and standards.
  • A critical understanding of how technology, policy, and law may have a disparate impact on individuals and communities based on race, gender, disability, income, immigration status, or other circumstances or characteristics.
  • Good data visualization skills.

Compensation and Benefits

Salary is competitive with public interest and government pay scales. CDT provides a generous benefits package that includes health care and dental coverage, a retirement plan, paid vacation, sick days, and parental leave.

To Apply

Please send the following to [email protected]:

  1. Cover letter, 
  2. Full CV, 
  3. One writing sample (e.g., a published paper), and
  4. A short research proposal (no more than 1 page) describing how you will address the topic above including your research question(s), methods, and expected outputs.