Twitter offers bounty to find biases in its image-cropping algorithm

By Amirtha P S, Desk Reporter
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The American micro-blogging platform Twitter will launch a competition for computer researchers and hackers to identify biases in its image-cropping algorithm after a group previously found that the algorithm tended to exclude Black people and men.

In a blog post, Twitter said that the bounty competition was aimed at identifying “potential harms of this algorithm beyond what we identified ourselves.” The competition is part of a wider effort across the tech industry to ensure artificial intelligence (AI) technologies act ethically.

Following criticism about image previews in posts excluding Black people’s faces, the company said, in a May study by three of its machine learning researchers, it was found that an 8 percent difference from demographic parity in favor of women and a 4 percent favor toward white individuals.

Twitter released publicly the computer code that decides how images are cropped in the Twitter feed. Participants are asked to find how the algorithm could cause harm, such as stereotyping or denigrating any group of people.

Opening up a competition lets Twitter get feedback from a much broader range of perspectives. For example, the Twitter team held a space to discuss the competition during which a team member mentioned getting questions about caste-based biases in the algorithm, something that may not be noticeable to software developers in California.

The competing hackers and researchers will have to submit a description of their findings, and a dataset that can be run through the algorithm to demonstrate the issue. Twitter will then assign points based on what kind of harms are found, how much it could potentially affect people and more.

The winners will receive cash prizes ranging from $500 to $3,500 and will be invited to present their work at a workshop hosted by Twitter at DEF CON in August, one of the largest hacker conferences held annually in Las Vegas.

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