Twitter Gives Users Image Cropping Functionality After Algorithm is Accused of Racial Bias

Twitter recently launched an image cropping algorithm that would help crop images that were too large to be displayed unless the tweet were opened. This was meant to make it so that some kind of a preview could be shown to whoever might be following the person that posted the tweet in question, but after a lot of users pointed out potential racial biases in the algorithm the social media platform was forced to take a step back in this regard.

A viral tweet from Twitter user @bascule showed two pictures that had both Barack Obama and Mitch McConnell in them separated by a long strip of white space. The algorithm selected Mitch McConnell for the preview in every instance except when the colors were inverted, revealing that color definitely played a role in the algorithm’s eventual decision.

This is a serious accusation, and it’s one that Twitter would not want to end up taking lightly because of the fact that machine learning algorithms have often been found to have racial biases within them. It is important to note that these biases are not always the result of malicious intent, sometimes they are the result of a lack of diversity in the workplace as well which is something that is not quite evil but is more of an issue that can be dealt with a little more easily.

While Twitter has paused the algorithm for now while it works out the kinks, it has decided to give users more control over image cropping at least for the time being. This is going to help users decide for themselves what the preview is going to end up looking like, something that might just be the better option because of the fact that people’s own biases are easier to account for.


Photo: Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket / Getty Images

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