Building equitable and inclusive NLP technologies demands consideration of whether and how social attitudes are represented in ML models. In particular, representations encoded in models often inadvertently perpetuate undesirable social biases from the data on which they are trained. In this paper, we present evidence of such undesirable biases towards mentions of disability in two different English language models: toxicity prediction and sentiment analysis. Next, we demonstrate that the neural embeddings that are the critical first step in most NLP pipelines similarly contain undesirable biases towards mentions of disability. We end by highlighting topical biases in the discourse about disability which may contribute to the observed model biases; for instance, gun violence, homelessness, and drug addiction are over-represented in texts discussing mental illness.
Data-driven statistical Natural Language Processing (NLP) techniques leverage large amounts of language data to build models that can understand language. However, most language data reflect the public discourse at the time the data was produced, and hence NLP models are susceptible to learning incidental associations around named referents at a particular point in time, in addition to general linguistic meaning. An NLP system designed to model notions such as sentiment and toxicity should ideally produce scores that are independent of the identity of such entities mentioned in text and their social associations. For example, in a general purpose sentiment analysis system, a phrase such as I hate Katy Perry should be interpreted as having the same sentiment as I hate Taylor Swift. Based on this idea, we propose a generic evaluation framework, Perturbation Sensitivity Analysis, which detects unintended model biases related to named entities, and requires no new annotations or corpora. We demonstrate the utility of this analysis by employing it on two different NLP models — a sentiment model and a toxicity model — applied on online comments in English language from four different genres.
This paper proposes a methodology for obtaining sentences containing discourse markers from the World Wide Web. The proposed methodology is particularly suitable for collecting large numbers of discourse marker tokens. It relies on the automatic identification of discourse markers, and we show that this can be done with an accuracy within 9% of that of human performance. We also show that the distribution of discourse markers on the web correlates highly with those in a conventional balanced corpus.