Contextualizing the ethics of algorithms: A socio-professional approach

Netta Avnoon, Dan M. Kotliar, Shira Rivnai-Bahir

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Research on AI ethics tends to examine the subject through philosophical, legal, or technical perspectives, largely neglecting the sociocultural one. This literature also predominantly focuses on Europe and the United States. Addressing these gaps, this article explores how data scientists justify and explain the ethics of their algorithmic work. Based on a pragmatist social analysis, and of 60 semi-structured interviews with Israeli data scientists, we ask: how do data scientists understand, interpret, and depict algorithmic ethics? And what ideologies, discourses, and worldviews shape algorithmic ethics? Our findings point to three dominant moral logics: (1) ethics as a personal endeavor; (2) ethics as hindering progress; and (3) ethics as a commodity. We show that while data science is a nascent profession, these moral logics originate from the techno-libertarian culture of its parent profession—engineering. Finally, we discuss the potential of these moral logics to mature into a more formal, agreed-upon moral regime.

Original languageEnglish
JournalNew Media and Society
StateAccepted/In press - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2023.


  • AI
  • AI ethics
  • algorithmic ethics
  • algorithms
  • culture
  • data science
  • moral regimes
  • pragmatist
  • professions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Sociology and Political Science


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