- Twitter said it is limiting its reliance on machine learning that helps it decide which part of a photo to crop on its platform.
- Online users have reported racial bias on the social media firm’s image cropping tool, which automatically focuses on the part of a photo it thinks the viewer will find most interesting.
- One Twitter user recently highlighted how the face of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is white, was routinely centered in automatic image crops, while that of former President Barack Obama was cut out.
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Twitter is making changes to its photo cropping function after an investigation into racial bias in the software, the company said on Thursday.
The announcement comes after users on the platform repeatedly showed that the tool — which uses machine learning to choose which part of an image to crop based on what it thinks is the most interesting — cuts out Black people from photos and centers on white faces instead.
Tony Arcieri, a cryptography engineer, posted a series of tweets in mid-September showing how the platform’s algorithm routinely chose to highlight the face of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is white, instead of former President Barack Obama’s in multiple photos of the two. The experiment prompted others to try similar experiments with the same result, and led to the company launching an investigation into its systems shortly after.
—Tony “Abolish (Pol)ICE” Arcieri 🦀 (@bascule) September 19, 2020
The social media company implemented its machine-learning-powered image cropping system in 2018. The system “relies on saliency, which predicts where people might look first,” Twitter’s chief design officer, Dantley Davis, and its chief technology officer, Parag Agrawal, wrote in the company blog post on Thursday.
They said in the post that Twitter will