Interpolating Item and User Fairness in Multi-Sided Recommendations


Qinyi Chen


Thien Le
Abstract: Today's online platforms rely heavily on algorithmic recommendations to bolster user engagement and drive revenue. However, such algorithmic recommendations can impact diverse stakeholders involved, namely the platform, items (seller), and users (customers), each with their unique objectives. In such multi-sided platforms, finding an appropriate middle ground becomes a complex operational challenge. Motivated by this, we formulate a novel fair recommendation framework, called Problem (FAIR), that not only maximizes the platform's revenue, but also accommodates varying fairness considerations from the perspectives of items and users. Our framework's distinguishing trait lies in its flexibility - it allows the platform to specify any definitions of item/user fairness that are deemed appropriate, as well as decide the "price of fairness" it is willing to pay to ensure fairness for other stakeholders. We further examine Problem (FAIR) in a dynamic online setting, where the platform needs to learn user data and generate fair recommendations simultaneously in real time, which are two tasks that are often at odds. In face of this additional challenge, we devise a low-regret online recommendation algorithm, called FORM, that effectively balances the act of learning and performing fair recommendation. Our theoretical analysis confirms that FORM proficiently maintains the platform's revenue, while ensuring desired levels of fairness for both items and users. Finally, we demonstrate the efficacy of our framework and method via several case studies on real-world data.

Bio: Qinyi Chen is a fourth-year PhD student in the Operations Research Center (ORC) at MIT, advised by Prof. Negin Golrezaei. Her research interests span machine learning and optimization, AI/ML fairness, approximation algorithms, game and auction theory, with applications in digital platforms and marketplaces.