Ethical Plateaus in Danish Child Protection Services

The Rise and Demise of Algorithmic Models



This paper analyses how controversies shape an emerging field of AI in Danish child protection services. In a context of high controversiality, we examine how algorithmic systems evolve in conjunction with changing ethical stakes. Empirically, we report a study comprising all Danish attempts (n=4) to develop algorithmic models for child protection services. These attempts were never fully implemented and have been either cancelled, paused or changed significantly since their outset. Combining Fischer’s (2004) notion of ‘ethical plateaus’ with insights from valuation studies, we propose that public controversies shape how organisations enact their algorithms as ethically ‘good’. Our findings demonstrate how valuations of ethically contestable algorithms involve the very distribution of agency across humans and algorithms, i.e., how much power and agency should be delegated to algorithmic models. In the case of Danish child protection services, this moves towards reducing their agency.


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How to Cite

Ratner, H. F. and Schrøder, I. (2023) “Ethical Plateaus in Danish Child Protection Services: The Rise and Demise of Algorithmic Models”, Science & Technology Studies. doi: 10.23987/sts.126011.