Twitter Launches Uncropped Photos in Response to Bias Complaints

Twitter Launches Uncropped Photos in Response to Bias Complaints

May 6, 2021

Twitter is no longer cropping images with standard aspect ratios, after the company’s auto-cropping algorithms were criticized for displaying racial bias.

After launching a beta test of the uncropped images in March for a limited number of users, Twitter is now supporting uncropped photos for everyone. “No bird too tall, no crop too short,” the tweet from the main Twitter account says. “Introducing bigger and better images on iOS and Android, now available to everyone.”

According to Twitter, images with standard aspect ratios (16:9, 4:3, 2:1 and 3:4) will show in full. Images with nonstandard sizes — either extremely tall or wide — will still be cropped. Until now, the social network has cropped photos in a 16:9 aspect ratio.

Twitter’s move to a “what you see is what you get” principle for displaying photos arose after users last fall noted issues with the auto-cropping algorithm in apparently favoring displaying a cropped photo with white people instead of Black people. “Today’s launch is a direct result of the feedback people shared with us last year that the way our algorithm cropped images wasn’t equitable,” a Twitter spokesperson said.

According to Twitter, it tested the existing machine-learning system that decides how to crop images before bringing it to Twitter but hadn’t published results of those tests. For its initial bias analysis, Twitter tested pairwise preference between two demographic groups (White-Black, White-Indian, White-Asian and male-female), combining two faces into the same image with their order randomized.

“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,” CTO Parag Agrawal and Dantley Davis, chief design officer, wrote in an October blog post.

“We hope that giving people more choices for image cropping and previewing what they’ll look like in the Tweet composer may help reduce the risk of harm,” the Twitter execs continued. “Bias in [machine learning] systems is an industry-wide issue, and one we’re committed to improving on Twitter.”

While some Twitter users are lamenting the loss of the “click on the photo to see a surprise” meme that was possible with auto-cropped images, some of the reactions to Twitter’s announcement showed that people will still find ways to playfully post images.

Here, for example, is Target’s response:

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