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Dr. Desmond Upton Patton, Associate Dean for Innovation and Academic Affairs, founding director of the SAFE Lab and co-director of the Justice, Equity and Technology lab at Columbia School of Social Work, is a leading pioneer in the field of making AI empathetic, culturally sensitive and less biased. Through keynote presentations and interactive workshops, Patton is helping organizations develop a better approach to diversity and inclusion that includes fairer practices that address the challenge of prejudice, rather than contribute to it. Also the founder of the SIM|ED tech incubator at Columbia University, Patton’s research uses virtual reality to educate youth and policymakers about the ways social media can be used against them and how race plays a part.

In 2018, Professor Patton published a groundbreaking finding in the prestigious Nature journal, Digital Medicine, which uncovered grief as a pathway to aggressive communication on Twitter. The report was cited in an amici curiae brief submitted to the United States Supreme Court in Elonis v. United States, which examined the interpretation of threats on social media. Widely referenced across disciplines, Patton’s research at the intersections of social media, AI, empathy and race has been mentioned in the New York Times, Nature, Washington Post, NPR, Vice News, ABC News and other prestigious media outlets more than seventy times in the last three years.

Professor Patton won the 2018 Deborah K. Padgett Early Career Achievement Award from the Society for Social Work Research (SSWR) for his work on social media, AI and well-being. He was named a 2017-2018 fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society and is a 2019 Presidential Leadership Scholar and Technology and Human Rights Fellow at the Carr Center for Human Rights at Harvard Kennedy School.


News

Oct 19, 2017

How Facebook Tries to Regulate Postings Made by Two Billion People

Berkman Klein Center hosts a day of conversation about reducing harmful speech online and hears from the Facebook executive in charge of platform moderation policies

The Berkman Klein Center community explores broader research questions and topics related to the challenges of keeping tabs on the daily social media interactions of hundreds of… More


Community

NPR

Police Monitoring Of Social Media Sparks Concerns In Black And Brown Communities

Desmond Patton interviewed by NPR about police monitoring social media

Aug 21, 2020
Nature

Has Twitter just had its saddest fortnight ever?

Sorrow alone doesn’t tell the whole story, Desmond Patton says.

Jun 15, 2020
MIT CMSW Podcast

Contextual Analysis of Social Media

A podcast with Desmond Patton on the promise and challenge of eliciting context in social media posts with natural language processing

Feb 21, 2020
Medium

5 Questions on Data and Context with Desmond Patton

The BKC faculty associate discusses the importance of meaningful interaction with the people behind data

Feb 21, 2020
Nature

Guns on social media: complex interpretations of gun images posted by Chicago youth

“How should we interpret gun images on social media?” Desmond Patton asks

Oct 15, 2019
PBS

The Modern Bystander Effect

Desmond Patton talks to PBS about violence Facebook Live

Oct 14, 2019
Tech Crunch

Why AI needs more social workers

BKC Faculty Associate Desmond Patton shares his perspective

Aug 9, 2019
Vox

Trump wants to “detect mass shooters before they strike.” It won’t work.

Predictive AI is too flawed — both technically and ethically — to prevent another El Paso or Dayton.

Aug 7, 2019
Columbia News

Using Twitter to Predict Gang Violence

Desmond Patton says law enforcement officials should analyze social media posts about grief and stress to prevent violent crime among young people.

May 30, 2019
The International Journal of Bullying Prevention

When Twitter Fingers Turn to Trigger Fingers: a Qualitative Study of Social Media-Related Gang Violence

Leveraging expertise to understand social media's role in gang activity

Apr 3, 2019
Justice Matters Podcast

Justice Matters Podcast: Desmond Patton

On the intersection of social media, ethics, and human rights

Apr 1, 2019
Medium

Why AI Needs Social Workers and “non-tech” Folks

Incorporating social work and values into community-based AI research

Mar 24, 2019
Voice of America

VR Project Highlights Social Media Policing

Police gather on social media in order to prevent and investigate criminal activity. But the clues found within aren't always conclusive

Nov 6, 2018