Twitter: the cropping algorithm prefers women, and white people

The social network has just shared the results of an internal study that wanted to highlight the potential racial prejudices of its cropping algorithm.

Twitter’s cropping algorithm is not free from bias. At least that’s what the results of an internal study published by the platform itself seem to highlight. While on mobile in particular, the social network tends to abandon cropping in favor of a full-size display, the tool is still widely used, especially on computers. Concretely, it allows Twitter to automatically crop the preview of an image published on its platform (which is always accessible in full size when clicked).

Twitter algorithm
© Twitter

Problem, many users had pointed to this feature, sometimes accusing it of having racial prejudice, with particular emphasis on white faces. To have the end of the story, Twitter had dispatched a team of experts last year to determine whether or not its algorithm had a problem with skin color. After several months of research, the results fell this week in a report of about twenty pages accessible (in English) here. In 4% of cases, the algorithm would tend to favor white people. A figure that rises to 7% when the subject is a white woman. If this difference is not huge, it has the merit of existing. In addition to sexist and racist prejudices, the social network has also pointed out a very particular passion of its algorithm: sports jerseys. In the majority of cases where the tool did not crop the image on the subject’s face, it was indeed to focus on the number on his jersey.

For its part, Twitter admitted that its algorithm did not allow not enough control over users of the platform. The social network should therefore redouble its attention in the future, in particular by offering more freedoms to Internet users.

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