Twitter will abandon its racially bias image cropping software
The software contained some pretty significant bias.
Twitter has decided to abandon its image cropping software after it was found that the software contained some pretty significant bias. Users found that the software had a tendency to prefer showing white people over Black people in the image preview that you see in a tweet.
In a blog post on the social media giant’s website, Rumman Chowdhury, a software engineering director for the company’s META (machine learning ethics, transparency and accountability) team posted findings by the team that did, in fact, find certain bias in the software based on race and gender.
These findings come from months of research dating back to late last year when users began noticing the problem. One user in particular, @bascule, posted an experiment showcasing the bias.
They added a picture with Barack Obama and Mitch McConnell to see which face the Twitter algorithm would focus on. No matter how the faces were positioned, the software always chose Mitch McConnell’s face, unless colors were reversed.
Twitter quickly responded, saying that internal testing was done before the feature launched, but obviously there was more that needed to be done. Working with several third-parties, the company conducted research that ultimately found significant errors in the software.
As of now, the company has almost completely abandoned this software. Twitter currently uses a model that shows the entire picture whenever possible. For pictures that are too large, the app will center crop them down to the maximum possible size.
As the company’s blog post mentioned above, what was really learned here is that machine learning is not always the answer. Just because you can, doesn’t necessarily mean you should. When it comes to things such as images on social media, a more hands-on approach may be the better option.
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