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CITP Seminar: Surya Mattu – Breaking The Black Box: How CITP’s Digital Witness Lab Uses Data-Driven Investigations to Expose Surveillance and Misinformation

Tuesday, October 3, 2023
12:30 pm - 1:30 pm


306 Sherrerd Hall
Photo of Surya Mattu

Video available here.

The CITP Digital Witness Lab is a research initiative that collects data to expose surveillance, misinformation, and other harms on digital platforms. We build independent, public, and open-source resources to scrutinize data-driven technologies so we can demand accountability for their harms. In this talk Mattu will describe their flagship project, WhatsApp Watch and explain their approach to tech accountability research which is informed by a decades worth of experience working in newsrooms and research contexts.

General information about the Lab and their research focus areas will be also  provided, as well as potential opportunities for students to get involved in our work.


Surya Mattu is an award-winning Brooklyn based data journalist, artist and engineer. He builds digital witness tools to investigate algorithmic systems and the ways in which they perpetuate biases and inequalities in society. Mattu leads the Digital Witness Lab at CITP, where he oversees the WhatsApp Watch project.

At the investigative journalism site, The Markup, he created Blacklight, a real-time website privacy inspector, and led Citizen Browser, a first of its kind independent audit of Facebook’s recommendation algorithms. Mattu’s work at The Markup has received public recognition, including two Edward R. Murrow awards and an award from the National Association of Black Journalists. He is also a 2021 University of Michigan Knight Wallace fellow.

Previously, he was a contributing researcher at ProPublica, where he worked on Machine Bias, a series that aims to highlight how algorithmic systems can be biased and discriminate against people. Machine Bias was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for Explanatory Journalism. His work has been exhibited at Somerset House, The Haus der Kulturen der Welt , The Whitney Museum, V&A Museum and Bitforms Gallery.

If you need an accommodation for a disability please contact Jean Butcher at  at least one week before the event.