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  1. We propose a simple yet effective solution to tackle the often-competing goals of fairness and utility in classification tasks. While fairness ensures that the model's predictions are unbiased and do not discriminate against any particular group or individual, utility focuses on maximizing the model's predictive performance. This work introduces the idea of leveraging aleatoric uncertainty (e.g., data ambiguity) to improve the fairness-utility trade-off. Our central hypothesis is that aleatoric uncertainty is a key factor for algorithmic fairness and samples with low aleatoric uncertainty are modeled more accurately and fairly than those with high aleatoric uncertainty. We then propose a principled model to improve fairness when aleatoric uncertainty is high and improve utility elsewhere. Our approach first intervenes in the data distribution to better decouple aleatoric uncertainty and epistemic uncertainty. It then introduces a fairness-utility bi-objective loss defined based on the estimated aleatoric uncertainty. Our approach is theoretically guaranteed to improve the fairness-utility trade-off. Experimental results on both tabular and image datasets show that the proposed approach outperforms state-of-the-art methods w.r.t. the fairness-utility trade-off and w.r.t. both group and individual fairness metrics. This work presents a fresh perspective on the trade-off between utility and algorithmic fairness and opens a key avenue for the potential of using prediction uncertainty in fair machine learning. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available October 21, 2024
  2. Recently, there has been a growing interest in developing machine learning (ML) models that can promote fairness, i.e., eliminating biased predictions towards certain populations (e.g., individuals from a specific demographic group). Most existing works learn such models based on well-designed fairness constraints in optimization. Nevertheless, in many practical ML tasks, only very few labeled data samples can be collected, which can lead to inferior fairness performance. This is because existing fairness constraints are designed to restrict the prediction disparity among different sensitive groups, but with few samples, it becomes difficult to accurately measure the disparity, thus rendering ineffective fairness optimization. In this paper, we define the fairness-aware learning task with limited training samples as the fair few-shot learning problem. To deal with this problem, we devise a novel framework that accumulates fairness-aware knowledge across different meta-training tasks and then generalizes the learned knowledge to meta-test tasks. To compensate for insufficient training samples, we propose an essential strategy to select and leverage an auxiliary set for each meta-test task. These auxiliary sets contain several labeled training samples that can enhance the model performance regarding fairness in meta-test tasks, thereby allowing for the transfer of learned useful fairness-oriented knowledge to meta-test tasks. Furthermore, we conduct extensive experiments on three real-world datasets to validate the superiority of our framework against the state-of-the-art baselines. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available September 30, 2024
  3. Machine learning algorithms typically assume that the training and test samples come from the same distributions, i.e., in-distribution. However, in open-world scenarios, streaming big data can be Out-Of-Distribution (OOD), rendering these algorithms ineffective. Prior solutions to the OOD challenge seek to identify invariant features across different training domains. The underlying assumption is that these invariant features should also work reasonably well in the unlabeled target domain. By contrast, this work is interested in the domain-specific features that include both invariant features and features unique to the target domain. We propose a simple yet effective approach that relies on correlations in general regardless of whether the features are invariant or not. Our approach uses the most confidently predicted samples identified by an OOD base model (teacher model) to train a new model (student model) that effectively adapts to the target domain. Empirical evaluations on benchmark datasets show that the performance is improved over the SOTA by ∼10-20%. 
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    Cyberbullying is rapidly becoming one of the most serious online risks for adolescents. This has motivated work on machine learning methods to automate the process of cyberbullying detection, which have so far mostly viewed cyberbullying as one-off incidents that occur at a single point in time. Comparatively less is known about how cyberbullying behavior occurs and evolves over time. This oversight highlights a crucial open challenge for cyberbullying-related research, given that cyberbullying is typically defined as intentional acts of aggression via electronic communication that occur repeatedly and persistently . In this article, we center our discussion on the challenge of modeling temporal patterns of cyberbullying behavior. Specifically, we investigate how temporal information within a social media session, which has an inherently hierarchical structure (e.g., words form a comment and comments form a session), can be leveraged to facilitate cyberbullying detection. Recent findings from interdisciplinary research suggest that the temporal characteristics of bullying sessions differ from those of non-bullying sessions and that the temporal information from users’ comments can improve cyberbullying detection. The proposed framework consists of three distinctive features: (1) a hierarchical structure that reflects how a social media session is formed in a bottom-up manner; (2) attention mechanisms applied at the word- and comment-level to differentiate the contributions of words and comments to the representation of a social media session; and (3) the incorporation of temporal features in modeling cyberbullying behavior at the comment-level. Quantitative and qualitative evaluations are conducted on a real-world dataset collected from Instagram, the social networking site with the highest percentage of users reporting cyberbullying experiences. Results from empirical evaluations show the significance of the proposed methods, which are tailored to capture temporal patterns of cyberbullying detection. 
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    Social media has become an indispensable tool in the face of natural disasters due to its broad appeal and ability to quickly disseminate information. For instance, Twitter is an important source for disaster responders to search for (1) topics that have been identified as being of particular interest over time, i.e., common topics such as “disaster rescue”; (2) new emerging themes of disaster-related discussions that are fast gathering in social media streams (Saha and Sindhwani 2012), i.e., distinct topics such as “the latest tsunami destruction”. To understand the status quo and allocate limited resources to most urgent areas, emergency managers need to quickly sift through relevant topics generated over time and investigate their commonness and distinctiveness. A major obstacle to the effective usage of social media, however, is its massive amount of noisy and undesired data. Hence, a naive method, such as set intersection/difference to find common/distinct topics, is often not practical. To address this challenge, this paper studies a new topic tracking problem that seeks to effectively identify the common and distinct topics with social streaming data. The problem is important as it presents a promising new way to efficiently search for accurate information during emergency response. This is achieved by an online Nonnegative Matrix Factorization (NMF) scheme that conducts a faster update of latent factors, and a joint NMF technique that seeks the balance between the reconstruction error of topic identification and the losses induced by discovering common and distinct topics. Extensive experimental results on real-world datasets collected during Hurricane Harvey and Florence reveal the effectiveness of our framework. 
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  7. Cyberbullying has become one of the most pressing online risks for adolescents and has raised serious concerns in society. Recent years have witnessed a surge in research aimed at developing principled learning models to detect cyberbullying behaviors. These efforts have primarily focused on building a single generic classification model to differentiate bullying content from normal (non-bullying) content among all users. These models treat users equally and overlook idiosyncratic information about users that might facilitate the accurate detection of cyberbullying. In this paper, we propose a personalized cyberbullying detection framework, PI-Bully, that draws on empirical findings from psychology highlighting unique characteristics of victims and bullies and peer influence from like-minded users as predictors of cyberbullying behaviors. Our framework is novel in its ability to model peer influence in a collaborative environment and tailor cyberbullying prediction for each individual user. Extensive experimental evaluations on real-world datasets corroborate the effectiveness of the proposed framework. 
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  8. Cyberbullying has become one of the most pressing online risks for young people and has raised serious concerns in society. The emerging literature identifies cyberbullying as repetitive acts that occur over time rather than one-off incidents. Yet, there has been relatively little work to model the hierarchical structure of social media sessions and the temporal dynamics of cyberbullying in online social network sessions. We propose a hierarchical attention network for cyberbullying detection that takes these aspects of cyberbullying into account. The primary distinctive characteristics of our approach include: (i) a hierarchical structure that mirrors the structure of a social media session; (ii) levels of attention mechanisms applied at the word and comment level, thereby enabling the model to pay different amounts of attention to words and comments, depending on the context; and (iii) a cyberbullying detection task that also predicts the interval of time between two adjacent comments. These characteristics allow the model to exploit the commonalities and differences across these two tasks to improve the performance of cyberbullying detection. Experiments on a real-world dataset from Instagram, the social media platform on which the highest percentage of users have reported experiencing cyberbullying, reveal that the proposed architecture outperforms the state-of-the-art method. 
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  9. Over the last decade, research has revealed the high prevalence of cyberbullying among youth and raised serious concerns in society. Information on the social media platforms where cyberbullying is most prevalent (e.g., Instagram, Facebook, Twitter) is inherently multi-modal, yet most existing work on cyberbullying identification has focused solely on building generic classification models that rely exclusively on text analysis of online social media sessions (e.g., posts). Despite their empirical success, these efforts ignore the multi-modal information manifested in social media data (e.g., image, video, user profile, time, and location), and thus fail to offer a comprehensive understanding of cyberbullying. Conventionally, when information from different modalities is presented together, it often reveals complementary insights about the application domain and facilitates better learning performance. In this paper, we study the novel problem of cyberbullying detection within a multi-modal context by exploiting social media data in a collaborative way. This task, however, is challenging due to the complex combination of both cross-modal correlations among various modalities and structural dependencies between different social media sessions, and the diverse attribute information of different modalities. To address these challenges, we propose XBully, a novel cyberbullying detection framework, that first reformulates multi-modal social media data as a heterogeneous network and then aims to learn node embedding representations upon it. Extensive experimental evaluations on real-world multi-modal social media datasets show that the XBully framework is superior to the state-of-the-art cyberbullying detection models. 
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  10. Cyberbullying has become one of the most pressing online risks for adolescents and has raised serious concerns in society. Traditional efforts are primarily devoted to building a single generic classification model for all users to differentiate bullying behaviors from the normal content [6, 3, 1, 2, 4]. Despite its empirical success, these models treat users equally and inevitably ignore the idiosyncrasies of users. Recent studies from psychology and sociology suggest that the occurrence of cyberbullying has a strong connection with the personality of victims and bullies embedded in the user-generated content, and the peer influence from like-minded users. In this paper, we propose a personalized cyberbullying detection framework PI-Bully with peer influence in a collaborative environment to tailor the prediction for each individual. In particular, the personalized classifier of each individual consists of three components: a global model that captures the commonality shared by all users, a personalized model that expresses the idiosyncratic personality of each specific user, and a third component that encodes the peer influence received from like-minded users. Most of the existing methods adopt a two-stage approach: they first apply feature engineering to capture the cyberbullying patterns and then employ machine learning classifiers to detect cyberbullying behaviors. However, building a personalized cyberbullying detection framework that is customized to each individual remains a challenging task, in large part because: (1) Social media data is often sparse, noisy and high-dimensional (2) It is important to capture the commonality shared by all users as well as idiosyncratic aspects of the personality of each individual for automatic cyberbullying detection; (3) In reality, a potential victim of cyberbullying is often influenced by peers and the influences from different users could be quite diverse. Hence, it is imperative to develop a way to encode the diversity of peer influence for cyberbullying detection. To summarize, we study a novel problem of personalized cyberbullying detection with peer influence in a collaborative environment, which is able to jointly model users' common features, unique personalities and peer influence to identify cyberbullying cases. 
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