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Quantifying Availability and Discovery in Recommender Systems via Stochastic Reachability

Mihaela Curmei · Sarah Dean · Benjamin Recht

Keywords: [ Social Aspects of Machine Learning ] [ Fairness, Accountability, and Transparency ] [ Applications -> Computer Vision; Applications -> Object Detection; Applications ] [ Visual Scene Analysis and Interpretation; De ] [ Image Segmentation ]


In this work, we consider how preference models in interactive recommendation systems determine the availability of content and users' opportunities for discovery. We propose an evaluation procedure based on stochastic reachability to quantify the maximum probability of recommending a target piece of content to an user for a set of allowable strategic modifications. This framework allows us to compute an upper bound on the likelihood of recommendation with minimal assumptions about user behavior. Stochastic reachability can be used to detect biases in the availability of content and diagnose limitations in the opportunities for discovery granted to users. We show that this metric can be computed efficiently as a convex program for a variety of practical settings, and further argue that reachability is not inherently at odds with accuracy. We demonstrate evaluations of recommendation algorithms trained on large datasets of explicit and implicit ratings. Our results illustrate how preference models, selection rules, and user interventions impact reachability and how these effects can be distributed unevenly.

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