Mar 30, 2022 - Technology

Meta researcher using AI to address Wikipedia's gender gap

Ina Fried
An illustration of women of various ethnicities and a Wikipedia page in the background

Image: Meta

Meta researcher Angela Fan is employing a novel approach to get Wikipedia to include more biographies of women: She's using AI to write the rough drafts.

Why it matters: Only about 20 percent of those profiled on the online encyclopedia are women, and many other groups are underrepresented on the site.

How it works: Facebook's parent company is releasing as open source software an AI model that it says can automatically create high-quality biographical articles about important real-world public figures, based on information found on the web.

  • The company is including a data set that was used to evaluate how the model handled 1,527 biographies of women.
  • The model searches for information and drafts a Wikipedia-style entry, including citations.

What they're saying: "There is more work to do, but we hope this new system will one day help Wikipedia editors create many thousands of accurate, compelling biography entries for important people who are currently not on the site," Fan said in a blog post.

Flashback: Fan began her project as a computer science student at the Université de Lorraine in Inria, France. She said she was inspired by seeing women underrepresented in books during her childhood.

  • In grade school she was assigned to write an essay on a historical figure, with the requirement that the person have a book about them. She wanted to write about Eleanor Roosevelt but had to "settle for Teddy" because there was no book in her school library on Eleanor.
  • "If we imagine the same assignment today, students would undoubtedly turn to the internet, most likely Wikipedia," Fan said. "While Wikipedia has millions of articles in English — including an excellent one about Eleanor Roosevelt — we know there are still plenty of women whose stories and achievements aren’t reaching future generations."
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