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(Reuters) – IBM is developing tools that would ensure that online advertising algorithms do not show ads only to specific groups such as predominantly men or wealthy people, aimed at addressing the discrimination issues that have caught the attention of the industry as a whole.

The company told Reuters on Thursday that a team of 14 would seek “fairness” in ads over the next six months, exploring ways to spot and mitigate unwanted effects. bias, including in audiences and the messages themselves.

Academic researchers and civil rights groups have discovered for a decade that certain audiences, including blacks and women, may be excluded from viewing jobs, housing, and other advertisements due to potentially illegal choices. made by advertisers or the automated systems they use.

Following complaints from the United States anti-discrimination regulators and activists, Alphabet’s Facebook and Google, which are the world’s biggest sellers of digital ads, have adopted some changes.

But problems remain, as a greater concern over data privacy has already begun to reshape internet marketing.

“The foundations of advertising are crumbling and we have to rebuild the house,” said IBM senior vice president Bob Lord. “While we’re at it, let’s make sure that fairness is in the plan.”

IBM’s Watson Advertising unit sells advertisements on its The Weather Company properties and also provides adware to other companies. Customers could potentially be presented with anti-bias offers.

IBM’s initial analysis of its own ad purchases suggests that ads can be served fairly evenly to all groups without affecting metrics such as the percentage of users who click on an adsaid Robert Redmond, head of advertising product design for AI.

Redmond gave as a hypothetical example a system said by an advertiser to direct an ad to men across the United States. It can start showing the ad only to those who are in big cities and whites, as this group clicks more. IBM is investigating whether artificial intelligence programs can detect this and then redirect ads more evenly.

The company then plans to analyze data from the non-profit Advertising Council’s public service announcements on COVID-19 vaccines.

“Systemic biases are unfortunately ingrained in almost every corner of the advertising industry,” said Lisa Sherman, President and CEO of the Board.

“We hope this research endeavor will help validate the steps we take to mitigate unintended bias (and) identify areas that we and others need to continue to refine.”

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