Can We Achieve Fairness Using Semi-Supervised Learning?


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Ethical bias in machine learning models has become a matter of concern in the software engineering community. Most of the prior software engineering works concentrated on finding ethical bias in models rather than fixing it. After finding bias, the next step is mitigation. Prior researchers mainly tried to use supervised approaches to achieve fairness. However, in the real world, getting data with trustworthy ground truth is challenging and also ground truth can contain human bias. Semi-supervised learning is a machine learning technique where, incrementally, labelled data is used to generate pseudo-labels for the rest of data (and then all that data is used for model training). In this work, we apply four popular semi-supervised techniques as pseudo-labelers to create fair classification models. Our framework, Fair-SSL, takes a very small amount (10%) of labeled data as input and generates pseudo-labels for the unlabeled data. We then synthetically generate new data points to balance the training data based on class and protected attribute as proposed by Chakraborty et al. in FSE 2021. Finally, classification model is trained on the balanced pseudo-labeled data and validated on test data. After experimenting on ten datasets and three learners, we find that Fair-SSL achieves similar performance as three state-of-theart bias mitigation algorithms. That said, the clear advantage of Fair-SSL is that it requires only 10% of the labeled training data. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first SE work where semi-supervised techniques are used to fight against ethical bias in SE ML models. To facilitate open science and replication, all our source code and datasets are publicly available at https://github. com/joymallyac/FairSSL.
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