After users found potential racial bias in Twitter’s image cropping feature, the platform is making some much-needed changes.
After users found that Twitter’s image cropping feature might be racially biased, Twitter is making some changes to the tool. Going forward, the platform plans on giving users more control over their images.
Twitter Steps Away From Automation
Twitter faced criticism after users found that its auto-crop feature may have an inherent racial bias. The platform debuted its smart-cropping feature back in 2018. The tool uses “saliency” to crop images for previews, which means that it crops images based on the area people will most likely look first.
Users have since discovered a flaw in the smart-cropping algorithm. When users Tweeted a photo of a white person alongside a black person, Twitter’s automated cropping tool consistently cropped the black person out of the image previews. Other users even experimented with photos of black cartoon characters and came up with similar findings.
In a post on the Twitter Blog, Twitter explained that it has already tested the image cropping feature for bias. Although it found no evidence of bias, it noted that auto-cropping may result in “potential for harm.”
Because of this, Twitter is still taking action. Twitter stated that it’s stepping away from automation in order to avoid the possibility of bias, saying:
We are prioritizing work to decrease our reliance on [machine learning]-based image cropping by giving people more visibility and control over what their images will look like in a Tweet.
The platform plans on giving users more control over their images. Twitter has already started “exploring different options to see what will work best across the wide range of images people Tweet every day.”
Twitter also wants to let users preview the way their image will look inside a Tweet. According to the post, Twitter is prioritizing a “what you see is what you get” approach to Tweet previews.
In other words, users will get to see exactly how their image will appear when composing a Tweet. The only exception to this will likely be any images that are too long or too wide.
Right now, Twitter is still trying to figure out how to implement this change, so there’s still no word on when the auto-cropping tool will be officially fixed.
Improving the Twitter Experience
Giving users more control over their image previews not only helps prevent racial bias, but it also improves the overall Twitter experience. It’s a much-needed change that will make Twitter a more inclusive and positive space for people to express themselves.
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