- Publication Date:
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- Human-Centric Intelligent Systems
- Sponsoring Org:
- National Science Foundation
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In online recommendation, customers arrive in a sequential and stochastic manner from an underlying distribution and the online decision model recommends a chosen item for each arriving individual based on some strategy. We study how to recommend an item at each step to maximize the expected reward while achieving user-side fairness for customers, i.e., customers who share similar profiles will receive a similar reward regardless of their sensitive attributes and items being recommended. By incorporating causal inference into bandits and adopting soft intervention to model the arm selection strategy, we first propose the d-separation based UCB algorithm (D-UCB) to explore the utilization of the d-separation set in reducing the amount of exploration needed to achieve low cumulative regret. Based on that, we then propose the fair causal bandit (F-UCB) for achieving the counterfactual individual fairness. Both theoretical analysis and empirical evaluation demonstrate effectiveness of our algorithms.
Contextual bandit algorithms have become widely used for recommendation in online systems (e.g. marketplaces, music streaming, news), where they now wield substantial influence on which items get shown to users. This raises questions of fairness to the items — and to the sellers, artists, and writers that benefit from this exposure. We argue that the conventional bandit formulation can lead to an undesirable and unfair winner-takes-all allocation of exposure. To remedy this problem, we propose a new bandit objective that guarantees merit-based fairness of exposure to the items while optimizing utility to the users. We formulate fairness regret and reward regret in this setting and present algorithms for both stochastic multi-armed bandits and stochastic linear bandits. We prove that the algorithms achieve sublinear fairness regret and reward regret. Beyond the theoretical analysis, we also provide empirical evidence that these algorithms can allocate exposure to different arms effectively.
We consider the problem of online learning in the linear contextual bandits setting, but in which there are also strong individual fairness constraints governed by an unknown similarity metric. These constraints demand that we select similar actions or individuals with approximately equal probability, which may be at odds with optimizing reward, thus modeling settings where profit and social policy are in tension. We assume we learn about an unknown Mahalanobis similarity metric from only weak feedback that identifies fairness violations, but does not quantify their extent. This is intended to represent the interventions of a regulator who “knows unfairness when he sees it” but nevertheless cannot enunciate a quantitative fairness metric over individuals. Our main result is an algorithm in the adversarial context setting that has a number of fairness violations that depends only logarithmically on T, while obtaining an optimal O(√T) regret bound to the best fair policy.
Recommender systems are often biased toward popular items. In other words, few items are frequently recommended while the majority of items do not get proportionate attention. That leads to low coverage of items in recommendation lists across users (i.e. low aggregate diversity) and unfair distribution of recommended items. In this paper, we introduce FairMatch, a general graph-based algorithm that works as a post-processing approach after recommendation generation for improving aggregate diversity. The algorithm iteratively finds items that are rarely recommended yet are high-quality and add them to the users' final recommendation lists. This is done by solving the maximum flow problem on the recommendation bipartite graph. While we focus on aggregate diversity and fair distribution of recommended items, the algorithm can be adapted to other recommendation scenarios using different underlying definitions of fairness. A comprehensive set of experiments on two datasets and comparison with state-of-the-art baselines show that FairMatch, while significantly improving aggregate diversity, provides comparable recommendation accuracy.
In this paper, we propose and study opportunistic contextual bandits - a special case of contextual bandits where the exploration cost varies under different environmental conditions, such as network load or return variation in recommendations. When the exploration cost is low, so is the actual regret of pulling a sub-optimal arm (e.g., trying a suboptimal recommendation). Therefore, intuitively, we could explore more when the exploration cost is relatively low and exploit more when the exploration cost is relatively high. Inspired by this intuition, for opportunistic contextual bandits with Linear payoffs, we propose an Adaptive Upper-Confidence-Bound algorithm (AdaLinUCB) to adaptively balance the exploration-exploitation trade-off for opportunistic learning. We prove that AdaLinUCB achieves O((log T)^2) problem-dependent regret upper bound, which has a smaller coefficient than that of the traditional LinUCB algorithm. Moreover, based on both synthetic and real-world dataset, we show that AdaLinUCB significantly outperforms other contextual bandit algorithms, under large exploration cost fluctuations.