Twitter drop photo-cropping function after racial bias complaints

Twitter drop photo-cropping function after racial bias complaints
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Twitter says it is deactivating an automatic photo-cropping function after an investigation into claims the tool trended toward removing Black faces from photographs. 

Twitter's director of software engineering Rumman Chowdhury wrote in a blog post this week that the company is removing the tool after reviewing the complaints, saying it would leave cropping decisions to its users.

“We considered the tradeoffs between the speed and consistency of automated cropping with the potential risks we saw in this research. One of our conclusions is that not everything on Twitter is a good candidate for an algorithm, and in this case, how to crop an image is a decision best made by people,” Chowdhury wrote. 

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The decision came after researchers found that “In comparisons of black and white individuals, there was a 4% difference from demographic parity in favor of white individuals.”

Besides racial bias complaints, researchers also found what they called “objectification biases,” noting they “identified instances where image cropping chose a woman’s chest or legs as a salient feature.” 

The social media behemoth announced in September it would review the complaints and other issues with the tool.

"It's 100% our fault," Twitter's chief design officer Dantley Davis said at the time. "No-one should say otherwise."