Counterfactually Augmented Data and Unintended Bias: The Case of Sexism and Hate Speech Detection


Counterfactually Augmented Data (CAD) aims to improve out-of-domain generalizability, an indicator of model robustness. The improvement is credited to promoting core features of the construct over spurious artifacts that happen to correlate with it. Yet, over-relying on core features may lead to unintended model bias. Especially, construct-driven CAD – perturbations of core features – may induce models to ignore the context in which core features are used. Here, we test models for sexism and hate speech detection on challenging data: non-hateful and non-sexist usage of identity and gendered terms. On these hard cases, models trained on CAD, especially construct-driven CAD, show higher false positive rates than models trained on the original, unperturbed data. Using a diverse set of CAD – construct-driven and construct-agnostic – reduces such unintended bias.

In Proceedings of the 2022 Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics - Human Language Technologies (NAACL-HLT 2022)