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Twitter competition finds that algorithm bias prefers white, slim, young faces

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A student researcher has found that Twitter’s image-cropping algorithm prefers faces that are slim, young and light-skinned

A graduate student at Switzerland’s EFPL university has discovered a bias in Twitter’s image-cropping ‘saliency’ algorithm.

Bogdan Kulynyc proved that the algorithm preferred faces that are light-skinned, slim and young. Twitter’s saliency algorithm decides the most interesting part of an image to crop for preview.

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The researcher tested how the software responded to AI-generated faces

Kulynyc found that by he could manipulate the algorithm to be prefer faces by “making the person’s skin lighter or warmer and smoother; and quite often changing the appearance to that of a younger, more slim, and more stereotypically feminine person”.

He achieved this by using an AI face generator to create artificial people with varying features. He was then able to run the images through the algorithm to see which faces the software preferred.

“We should not forget that algorithmic bias is only a part of a bigger picture. Addressing bias in general and in competitions like this should not end the conversation about the tech being harmful in other ways, or by design, or by fact of existing,” said Kulynyc.

“A lot of harmful tech is harmful not because of accidents, unintended mistakes, but rather by design”

Bogdan Kulynyc

“This shows how algorithmic models amplify real-world biases and societal expectations of beauty”

Twitter’s director of software engineering and head of AI Ethics Rumman Chowdhury says the findings “showcased how applying beauty filters could game the algorithm’s internal scoring model.

“We create these filters because we think that’s what ‘beautiful’ is, and that ends up training our models and driving these unrealistic notions of what it means to be attractive.”

Twitter’s “algorithmic bug bounty”

The findings mark the conclusion of Twitter’s first “algorithmic bug bounty”. The event was part of an in-house competition at the DEF CON security conference in LA.

Twitter rewarded the student $3500 for his efforts.

Last year, Twitter came under fire for cropping out Black faces

This comes after and incident last year, where the tech giant found that the preview crop was more likely to hide Black faces.

Twitter’s director of software engineering Rumman Chowdhury said the findings illustrated that “how to crop an image is a decision best made by people”.

Natasha is an Associate Producer at ticker NEWS with a Bachelor of arts from Monash University. She has previously worked at Sky News Australia and Monash University as an Online Content Producer.

Business

WhatsApp ramps up privacy features

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WhatsApp ramps up privacy features to prevent subscriber loss

The world’s two billion plus WhatsApp users will soon have greater privacy controls with new platform changes on the way.

Meta boss, Mark Zuckerberg, announced the new WhatsApp updates in a Facebook post earlier this week.  

Users will be able to make a stealthy exit from group conversations without the rest of the participants being notified.

Other changes include allowing users the ability to check messages without others knowing and controlling who sees when they are online.

These functions have been flagged as being rolled out to WhatsApp users over the next month.  

Even more significant to user privacy is a function that is still under development.

Here, WhatsApp users can allow their messages to be viewed only once with an added screenshot blocking feature.

This will prevent other users saving their communication onto their phones for future reference.  

The changes have been announced after Meta was scrutinised last year for their data sharing practices after an update of its Terms of Service.

META CEO, Mark Zuckerberg as WhatsApp ramps up privacy features

Users were concerned over suggestions WhatsApp user data would be shared and utilised by parent company Meta.

WhatsApp has always boasted about the benefits of its end-to-end encryption preventing.

The news that WhatsApp planned to share user data more widely with Meta shook users’ faith in the platform.  

As the third most popular social media platform, it seems Meta is keen to retain this market share by increasing its privacy features.

Some would say this is both to allay security fears and to prevent them from moving to other popular messaging apps such as Signal.  

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Facebook hands teen’s data to police for abortion charge

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New reports reveal that Facebook has handed over data to police to help criminally punish a teenager for seeking to get an abortion

The tech giant turned Celeste Burgess’ Facebook message’s into the authorities, where she is being charged for “removing and abandoning a dead human body.”

The 17-year-old lives in Nebraska where abortion isn’t illegal, but the abortion happened via medication at 23 weeks.

Nebraska has a 20 week pregnancy cut off date, and the medication also warns against medical abortion past this time.

The teen’s mother is also facing 5 charges.

This comes amid widespread controversy after the historic Roe v Wade ruling was overturned in the United States.

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Business

Meta faces a probe into triggering poor mental health

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Meta is facing a string of lawsuits that relate to the mental health of young people

The legal disputes blame Instagram for eating disorders, depression and even suicides among children and teens.

It comes after whistle-blower Frances Haugen exposed internal documents about how Instagram impacts body image and mental health.

The leaks allegedly show Meta is aware that its products hurt children but the company chose to put its growth and profits ahead of user’s safety.

Meta has not responded to these latest legal blows.

Of course, if you or someone you know needs help, please contact your local helpline.

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