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Twitter apologises for 'racist' image-cropping algorithm

2020-09-21 16:24 by
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Twitter is looking into allegations that its algorithm which chooses a preview image for a large photo is racially biased. Cryptographic engineer Tony Arcieri conducted an experiment suggesting Twitter's algorithm was biased in prioritizing photos. When attaching photos of Barack Obama and Mitch McConnell to tweets, Twitter seemed to exclusively highlight McConnell's face — Obama only popped up when Arcieri inverted the colors, making skin color a non-issue.

Several users posted a lot of photos to show that in an image that has people with different colors, Twitter chooses to show folks with lighter skin after cropping those images to fit its display parameters on its site and embeds. Some of them even tried to reproduce results with fictional characters and dogs.

Twitter has long automatically cropped images to prevent them taking up too much space on the main feed, and to allow multiple pictures to be shown in the same tweet. The company uses several algorithmic tools to try to focus on the most important parts of the picture, trying to ensure that faces and text remain in the cropped part of an image.

A Twitter spokesperson said today that no race or gender bias was found in evaluation of the algorithm before it was deployed "but it's clear we have more analysis to do."

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