Model Debiasing via Gradient-based Explanation on Representation

Jindi Zhang, Luning Wang, Dan Su, Yongxiang Huang, Caleb Chen Cao, Lei Chen

Machine learning systems produce biased results towards certain demographic groups, known as the fairness problem. Recent approaches to tackle this problem learn a latent code (i.e., representation) through disentangled representation learning and then discard the latent code dimensions correlated with sensitive attributes (e.g., gender). Nevertheless, these approaches may suffer from incomplete disentanglement and overlook proxy attributes (proxies for sensitive attributes) when processing real-world data, especially for unstructured data, causing performance degradation in fairness and loss of useful information for downstream tasks. In this paper, we propose a novel fairness framework that performs debiasing with regard to both sensitive attributes and proxy attributes, which boosts the prediction performance of downstream task models without complete disentanglement. The main idea is to, first, leverage gradient-based explanation to find two model focuses, 1) one focus for predicting sensitive attributes and 2) the other focus for predicting downstream task labels, and second, use them to perturb the latent code that guides the training of downstream task models towards fairness and utility goals. We show empirically that our framework works with both disentangled and non-disentangled representation learning methods and achieves better fairness-accuracy trade-off on unstructured and structured datasets than previous state-of-the-art approaches.

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