Descriptive Language Understanding to Identify Potential Bias in Text

Ishan Shrivastava
Sep 3, 2020 · 8 min read
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The world we live in is not a just world. It is infected by different kinds of bias, be it Gender Bias or Racial Bias. More recently, the world was shocked by the tragic news of George Floyd’s death due to extreme police brutality. This brought issues like Systemic Racism, unconscious bias, Racial and Gender gap at the focus for many people, organizations, and nations. This blog talks about what we at GumGum can do to bring change by utilizing our Natural Language Processing technology to shed light on potential bias that websites may have in their content. The ideas and techniques shared in this blog are a result of the GumGum Hackathon Project: Verity E-Quality (Aditya Ramesh, Erica Nishimura, Ishan Shrivastava, Lane Schechter and Trung Do).

In this blog, we will look into how we can utilize and build upon the existing product offering from GumGum to understand the Gender Representation in a website’s content. We aren’t saying that one publisher is more biased than the other, rather we are merely providing the awareness around the representation as it exists. With Natural Language Processing, we can compare between the descriptive language being used around Males and Females to provide this awareness.

In order to facilitate meaningful change, we need to be aware and mindful of where that change is needed. — Lane Schechter, Product Manager, GumGum Inc.

GumGum’s Product Offerings

Before we move ahead to understand how we build upon the existing product offerings, let us first take a brief look at them. GumGum’s Verity Product does a complete contextual analysis of a publisher’s webpage. Some of the key offerings of this product are:

  • Contextual Classification & Targeting: This feature identifies and scores publisher’s content (webpages) for contextual classification based on standard IAB Content Taxonomy v1.0 and v2.0. Some of those categories are “Sports”, “Food & Drinks”, “Automotive”, “Medical Health” etc. Going forward, we will refer to them as IAB verticals.
  • Brand Safety & Suitability: This feature flags and rates brand safety threats based on GumGum’s proprietary threat classification taxonomy and in compliance with The 4A’s Advertising Assurance Brand Safety Framework.
  • Named Entity Recognition (NER): This feature identifies and extracts any mention of a named entity in the publisher’s content. A named entity could be any mention of a ‘Person’, ‘Location’ or ‘Organization’.
  • Sentiment Analysis: This feature analyzes the attitudes, opinions and emotions expressed online to provide the most nuanced brand safety and contextual insights.

Here is one way we can provide the Descriptive Language Understanding Associated with Gender. We can use the Named Entity Recognition (NER) feature to extract Names of “Person” named entity type which can be used to identify the gender of the person being talked about. We can also use the Sentiment Analysis feature to extract sentiment of the sentences in which Males and Females are being talked about. We can use all of this information to understand the descriptive language being used around Males and Females (more on how to do this in the next section) and compare it across different IAB verticals extracted using our Contextual Classification feature.

Approach for Descriptive Language Understanding Associated with Gender

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Fig 1: Flowchart diagram describing the approach for Descriptive Language Understanding Associated with Gender

We start by running a Domain Specific Query on our NLP Databases to extract URL’s for the given publisher. We then utilize the Named Entity Recognition Feature of Verity to filter out pages that do not contain any “Person” Named Entity. From the remaining pages, we extract all “Person Names” and the Sentences in which those “Person Names” occur. As a future step, we can also perform coreference resolution, to extract more sentences where the “Persons” are mentioned using their respective pronouns.

We then use the “Person Names” to detect the gender of the person using an open source package called Gender Guesser. We also use the “Sentences” to extract the sentiment of the Sentence by utilizing our own FastText based Sentiment Classification model. This model is trained on our publisher data which classifies a sentence into Negative, Neutral or Positive Sentiment.

We also use “Person Names” and the Sentences they occur in to extract Adjectives used in the surrounding context for a given person. To achieve this we used Spacy’s Part of Speech Tokenizer and extract adjectives used within a proximity of a mention of a person name. Consider the example given below:

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Fig 2

We use all this information to create a Word Cloud for the Adjectives used around each Gender and Sentiment Pair across the entire content as well as specific to different IAB verticals.

For example, consider the following four word clouds that we got based on the Adjectives used around Males and Females in a Positive and Negative context extracted from a Publisher’s content:

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Fig 3: Word Cloud Based on Adjectives used around Male’s with Negative Sentiment
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Fig 4: Word Cloud Based on Adjectives used around Female’s with Negative Sentiment

Nothing stereotypical stands out here. It has similarly or equally negative adjectives being used around Males and Females alike.

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Fig 5: Word Cloud Based on Adjectives used around Male’s with Positive Sentiment
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Fig 6: Word Cloud Based on Adjectives used around Female’s with Positive Sentiment

What we see here is Adjectives being used around Males tend to be related to power status and success, while women’s adjectives tend to be more passive and gravitate around their appearance.

It becomes even more clearer if we look at the most frequent Adjectives used around ONLY Males or Female. We do this by considering the top 15 adjectives and extracting only the Uncommon Adjectives between the two genders and compare it among the Positive and Negative Context.

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Fig 7: Most Frequent Adjectives used for Only Male/Female based on top 15 Adjectives for each Gender corresponding to different Sentiment Context

Here we can clearly see that in the Negative context, the most frequent Adjectives used around Only Males and Only Females can be considered equally negative. But in the Positive context, that is clearly not the case. Around Males, we see adjectives related to power and status such as “Presidential”, “Proud”, “Better”, “First”, “Sized”, “Perfect”, “Fantastic”, “Rich”, etc while we see more passive and appearance-related adjectives like “Beautiful”, “Healthy”, “Sweet”, “Supporting”, “Lucky” etc around Females.

This sort of analysis of the descriptive language being used around different Genders in different Sentimental Context can really help in understanding what sort of Bias if any is present in a publisher’s content. But how can we quantify this? For this we introduce a Context Based Similarity Score.

Context Based Similarity Score

The idea here is to find a way to compute a single score that shows the degree of similarity between the most frequent adjectives used around only Males and only Females. To achieve this we make use of the famous Transformer based Deep Learning model: BERT by Google Research.

Among being awesome at a variety of NLP tasks and breaking the State of the Art results on them, BERT is also great at providing Contextualized Word Vector Representations (Embeddings). What that means is that, BERT doesn’t provide a single and constant representation of a word, rather it looks at the context in which the word was used in the sentence and spits out a context sensitive representation of that word. This is particularly useful as it captures more information than other representations such as Word2Vec or Glove. A famous example used to point this out is that BERT will provide different representations for the word “Bank” depending on the context in which it was used. The context could be of a river bank or of a financial bank. Therefore, to extract a word representation from BERT, you need to send a sentence in which it was used to get a Contextualized Word Vector Representations. (Apart from reading their original paper here, you can also look at this and this to get a more visualistic way of understanding Transformers and BERT. )

Therefore, along with the most frequent Male only and Female Only adjectives, we also extract the sentences in which these Male only and Female Only Adjectives are used. We send these sentences into BERT to extract Contextualized Vector Representations of length 768, for each of these Adjectives based on the context in which these adjectives were used.

We use these representation that have rich context information to compute a Context Based Similarity Score between the Male only Adjectives and Female Only Adjectives used in with Positive or a Negative context. We take the mean of the contextual representations of all Male only Adjectives and Female Only Adjectives to get an averaged representation for all the Male only Adjectives and Female only Adjectives respectively. We then take the cosine similarity between the two vector representations to compute a Context Based Similarity Score as shown in the figure below:

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Fig 8: Calculating the Context Based Similarity Score from Contextualized Word Vector Representations of the Adjectives used around only Males and around only Females.

This score is calculated for a given sentiment and a given IAB vertical.

The higher this score, the better is the balance between the Adjectives being used around a particular gender in the context of a given sentiment and given IAB vertical.

Let us look at the Context Based Similarity score in action:

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Fig 9: The Context Based Similarity Score based on the most Frequent Adjectives used around Only Males and Only Females corresponding to different Sentiment Context

Comparing the two scores, we can see that we get a higher score in the case of Negative sentiment, where there were similar kind of Adjectives (equally negative in this case) used around Males and Females. On the other hand, we get a lower score in the case of Positive sentiment, where we did see some form of Bias.

Conclusion

In this blog we saw how we can analyze the Descriptive Language used around Males and Females. We analyzed the insights found from such an analysis and saw how it can guide and point us to where the change might be required. We took a look at how GumGum can leverage Product Offerings like Content Classification and Named Entity Recognition from its vast variety of feature arsenal and build upon them to quantify the degree of similarities in the descriptive language being used around Males and Females. As a part of our future works, we can work on identifying Race mentions in a piece of text and easily extend this work to understand the Descriptive Language used around different Races.

About Me: Graduated with a Masters in Computer Science from ASU. I am a NLP Scientist at GumGum. I am interested in applying Machine Learning/Deep Learning to provide some structure to the unstructured data that surrounds us.

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