Twitter will soon let users crop their own image previews following criticism over apparent bias in the site’s algorithmic cropping systems.
Currently, Twitter crops any image to 600×335 pixels, regardless of its original dimensions. However, it is up to Twitter’s algorithm to select what gets cropped out and what gets shown in the image preview.
In the near future, this is going to change. Twitter will be giving control over what is shown in tweet previews:
“We are prioritizing work to decrease our reliance on ML-based image cropping by giving people more visibility and control over what their images will look like in a Tweet.
Going forward, we are committed to following the “what you see is what you get” principles of design, meaning quite simply: the photo you see in the Tweet composer is what it will look like in the Tweet.”
Twitter Image Cropping Racial Bias
While the feature has long been requested by users, it became a priority for Twitter in recent weeks as users noticed the site’s bias defaulted to showing white faces rather than black people or other individuals of color.
This seemed to occur no matter how the original image was formatted, and users found examples using stock photos:
Well known politicians:
And even images of animals:
While Twitter denies any purposeful bias built into its algorithm, the company admits its current system has the potential for problematic results:
“While our analyses to date haven’t shown racial or gender bias, we recognize that the way we automatically crop photos means there is a potential for harm. We should’ve done a better job of anticipating this possibility when we were first designing and building this product.”
As such, the company is making changes to prevent these types of problems in the future:
“We’re aware of our responsibility, and want to work towards making it easier for everyone to understand how our systems work. While no system can be completely free of bias, we’ll continue to minimize bias through deliberate and thorough analysis, and share updates as we progress in this space.”
When Is It Coming?
The exact timeline for the changes is not known currently, as Twitter says it is still in the process of developing a solution.
“There’s lots of work to do,” says the company.