(Photo : Pexels/Brett Jordan) Twitter algorithm investigation

Twitter announced it will start a new initiative called Responsible Machine Learning in order to assess any unintentional harms caused by its algorithms.

Twitter's Responsible Machine Learning

A team of engineers, researchers, and data scientists across the company will study how Twitter's use of machine learning can lead to algorithmic biases that negatively impact Twitter users.

One of the first tasks is an assessment of racial and gender bias in the platform's image cropping algorithm. Twitter users have pointed out that its auto-cropped photo previews seem to favor white faces over people of color.

Last month, the company started testing displaying full images instead of cropped previews, according to Social Media Today.

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The team will also look at how timeline recommendations differ across racial subgroups and analyze content recommendations across political ideologies in different countries.

Twitter stated that it will work closely with third-party academic researchers and will share results of its analyses and ask for feedback from the users of the platform.

It is not clear how much impact the findings will have. Twitter stated that they may not always translate into visible product changes, instead it may just simply lead to heightened awareness and important discussions about how the company uses machine learning.

Twitter's decision to analyze its own algorithms for bias follows other social media networks like Facebook, which formed similar teams in 2020. There is also ongoing pressure from lawmakers to keep the algorithmic bias of companies in check.

Twitter is also in the early stages of exploring algorithmic choice, which will potentially allow people to have more input into what content is served to them.

Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter, said earlier this year that he envisions an app-store-like view of ranking algorithms, from which people will be able to choose which algorithms control their feeds.

App store for social media algorithms

Dorsey imagines a future where users get to choose what they see on social media by choosing their favorite recommendation algorithm, instead of relying on a single controlling company to get it right.

On a call with investors earlier this year, Dorsey was able to expand his vision of how a decentralized social network might work and why Twitter would want to create a network that is beyond the control of itself or any other company, according to The Verge.

Dorsey stated that Twitter would benefit by having access to a much larger corpus of conversation from which it can surface relevant content to users, TechCrunch reported.

Dorsey added that Twitter is excited to build features that will give people more choice over what they wish to see. He said that users can image an app store-like view of ranking algorithms that give people flexibility in terms of what posts are put in front of them.

Twitter could both create its own ranking algorithms for people to choose from and offer a marketplace where people select different options.

Twitter has been working on developing a decentralized social network since 2019, but the company is just now trying to hire a project manager. There is still no exact release date for this said project.

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Written by Sieeka Khan

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