TWITTER is scrapping its image cropping algorithm after research found it was “racist”.
The tool, which automatically crops photos posted to the app’s main feed, has a bias toward excluding Black people, the company said.
Twitter is scrapping its image cropping algorithm after research found it was ‘racist’Credit: Alamy
Twitter added in its research published Wednesday that “how to crop an image is a decision best made by people.”
The study by three of its AI experts was conducted after user criticism last year about image previews in posts hiding Black people’s faces.
Twitter has long used artificial intelligence to crop photos posted by users to prevent them taking up too much space in people’s feeds.
The algorithm attempts to focus on the most important part of the picture, trying to ensure that text and people’s faces remain in the cropped version.
But the company was forced to investigate the tool when users reported that it frequently cropped black people out of photos.
Writing in its May 19 report, Twitter conceded that it found the algorithm delivered “unequal treatment based on demographic differences”.
White people and men were favoured over black individuals and women, the company said.
Specifically, there was an eight per cent difference from demographic parity in favour of women, and a four per cent favour toward white people.
The paper cited several possible reasons, including issues with image backgrounds and eye color, but said none were an excuse.
“Machine learning based cropping is fundamentally flawed because it removes user agency and restricts user’s expression of their own identity and values,” the researchers wrote.
The algorithm “instead imposes a normative gaze about which part of the image is considered the most interesting,” they added.
To counter the problem, Twitter recently started showing standard aspect ratio photos in full – without any crop – on its mobile apps.
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The company said that it is trying to expand that effort.
The researchers also assessed whether crops favoured women’s bodies over heads, reflecting what is known as the “male gaze,” but found that does not appear to be the case.
Users on Twitter blasted the company, with one person tweeting: “So what you are saying is Twitter’s algorithm is racist”.
The findings are another example of the disparate impact from artificial intelligence systems including demographic biases identified in facial recognition and text analysis, the paper said.
Work by researchers at Microsoft and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2018 and a later U.S. government study found that facial analysis systems misidentify people of colour more often than white people.
Amazon in 2018 scrapped an AI recruiting tool that showed bias against women.
Twitter is reportedly working on subscription service called Twitter Blue that will charge users $2.99 a month.
Instagram is making it easier for you to publicly display your pronouns on your profile.
And, Facebook is facing backlash in the US over plans to create a version of Instagram for children under 13.
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