Twitter Changes Photo Cropping

Ink Drop / @TwitterSupport/Twitter (Licensed)

Twitter promises change after being called out for racist cropping algorithm

Twitter says moving forward ‘the photo you see in the tweet composer is what it will look like in the tweet.’


Andrew Wyrich


Twitter on Thursday said it is exploring changes to the way photos are cropped on the platform after users showed last week that its algorithm cropped out Black people automatically.

Twitter users did several experiments that showed how Twitter’s automatic photo cropping favored white faces over Black ones, with a viral tweet showing that the face of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) was shown over former President Barack Obama.

Chief Design Officer Dantley Davis quickly responded to users last week, saying that the company needed to fix the issue.

On Thursday, the company’s Chief Technology Officer Parag Agrawal and Davis went into more detail about it in a blog post. They said Twitter will be decreasing its reliance on machine learning to crop photos moving forward, and will focus on “giving people more visibility and control over what their images will look like in a tweet.”

“We’ve started exploring different options to see what will work best across the wide range of images people tweet every day. 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,” Agrawal and Davis wrote. “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.”

Agrawal and Davis also noted that Twitter tested the machine learning system for photo cropping and found that it didn’t have a race or gender bias, but said it was an “oversight” for not publishing their tests.

They also added that Twitter is still looking into how a system where users can see exactly what a photo would look like after tweeting it would work with photos that are different sizes or are very long or wide.

“In those cases, we’ll need to experiment with how we present the photo in a way that doesn’t lose the creator’s intended focal point or take away from the integrity of the photo,” the blog reads.

The two Twitter officials did not say when exactly the photo cropping changes would take effect.

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