Twitter and Zoom spotted for racial bias in the visual algorithms
Twitter and Zoom were spotted to have a racial bias in their visual algorithms. This sensational note was announced through some tweets claiming on the racial bias that has got exhibited through popular platforms like these. With the virtual background, Zoom appeared to be removing the head of people with a darker skin pigmentation whereas the same is not applied to people having a lighter skin pigmentation. In the tweet reported the issue, this gesture of Zoom was shown in favor of a white person over a black one. Twitter has responded to the outrage that emerged, saying it was clear it had more work to do.
Initially, Zoom was developing issues or malfunctions with its virtual background algorithms that could manifest as racial bias. The popular Market Researcher Colin Madland, on his post, explained via Twitter that the issue with the face-detection algorithm that allegedly erases black faces when applying a virtual background on the video conferencing app.
In response to the media queries, Zoom had given clarification on the algorithm and also announced that it was investigating the issue. The company claimed that with direct approaches with customers they are into investigate this issue and also shared thoughts on their commitment to providing a platform that is inclusive for all users.
In response to the same thread of Madland, he has added Twitter’s image thumbnail cropping algorithm that seemed to be favoring Madland over his black colleague. In response to this Twitter Chief Design Officer Dantley Davis commented that “It’s 100 percent our fault. No one should say otherwise. Now the next step is fixing it.”
The apparent bias also got highlighted on the microblogging platform by many Twitter users, which also got an immediate response from the Twitter CTO Parag Aggarwal. Another note on this came from cryptographic engineer Tony Arcieri, who on Sunday tweeted the mugshots of former US President Barack Obama and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell to understand whether the platform’s algorithm would highlight the former or latter. He has used different patterns of putting the mugshots in the images, but in all cases, Twitter showed McConnell over Obama, which in turn again highlighted the bias well.
However, once the engineer inverted the colors of the mugshots, Obama’s image showed up on the cropped view, and the producer Kim Sherrell also found that the algorithm tweaks the preference once the image of Obama is changed with a higher contrast smile. In addition to this, some users also found that the algorithm appears to give focus to brighter complexions even in the case of cartoons and animals. Different Twitter clients like Tweet deck and Twit terrific, as well as a mobile, app, and desktop views, showed different priorities for image cropping.
Twitter spokesperson Liz Kelley responded to all the tweets raising racial bias allegations against the platform and said, “We tested for bias before shipping the model and didn’t find evidence of racial or gender bias in our test, but it’s clear that we’ve got more analysis to do.” She added saying, “We’ll open source our work so others can review and replicate.” Twitter engineer Zehan Wang also tweeted that the team conducted some bias studies before releasing the new algorithm and at that time found that there was “no significant bias between ethnicities or genders. He also added that the company would appreciate the review given by the Twitter users and recommend it for further study.