Portrait of Golnoosh Farnadi

Golnoosh Farnadi

Core Academic Member
Canada CIFAR AI Chair
Assistant Professor, McGill University, School of Computer Science
Adjunct Professor, Université de Montréal, Department of Computer Science and Operations Research
Visiting Faculty Researcher, Google


Golnoosh Farnadi is an assistant professor at the School of Computer Science, McGill University, and an adjunct professor at Université de Montréal. She is a core academic member of Mila – Quebec Artificial Intelligence Institute and holds a Canada CIFAR AI Chair.

Farnadi founded and is a principal investigator of the EQUAL lab at Mila / McGill University. The EQUAL lab (EQuity & EQuality Using AI and Learning algorithms) is a cutting-edge research laboratory dedicated to advancing the fields of algorithmic fairness and responsible AI.

Current Students

Postdoctorate - Université de Montréal
Master's Research - Université de Montréal
Research Intern - McGill University
Master's Research - Polytechnique Montréal
Independent visiting researcher - HEC Montréal
Independent visiting researcher - Ghent University
Collaborating Alumni - Université de Montréal
Research Intern - McGill University University
Master's Research - Université de Montréal
PhD - Université de Montréal
Co-supervisor :
Master's Research - Université de Montréal


Fairness Incentives in Response to Unfair Dynamic Pricing
Jesse Thibodeau
Hadi Nekoei
Afaf Taïk
Janarthanan Rajendran
The use of dynamic pricing by profit-maximizing firms gives rise to demand fairness concerns, measured by discrepancies in consumer groups' … (see more)demand responses to a given pricing strategy. Notably, dynamic pricing may result in buyer distributions unreflective of those of the underlying population, which can be problematic in markets where fair representation is socially desirable. To address this, policy makers might leverage tools such as taxation and subsidy to adapt policy mechanisms dependent upon their social objective. In this paper, we explore the potential for AI methods to assist such intervention strategies. To this end, we design a basic simulated economy, wherein we introduce a dynamic social planner (SP) to generate corporate taxation schedules geared to incentivizing firms towards adopting fair pricing behaviours, and to use the collected tax budget to subsidize consumption among underrepresented groups. To cover a range of possible policy scenarios, we formulate our social planner's learning problem as a multi-armed bandit, a contextual bandit and finally as a full reinforcement learning (RL) problem, evaluating welfare outcomes from each case. To alleviate the difficulty in retaining meaningful tax rates that apply to less frequently occurring brackets, we introduce FairReplayBuffer, which ensures that our RL agent samples experiences uniformly across a discretized fairness space. We find that, upon deploying a learned tax and redistribution policy, social welfare improves on that of the fairness-agnostic baseline, and approaches that of the analytically optimal fairness-aware baseline for the multi-armed and contextual bandit settings, and surpassing it by 13.19% in the full RL setting.
Learning to Build Solutions in Stochastic Matching Problems Using Flows (Student Abstract)
Promoting Fair Vaccination Strategies through Influence Maximization: A Case Study on COVID-19 Spread
Nicola Neophytou
Afaf Taïk
The aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic saw more severe outcomes for racial minority groups and economically-deprived communities. Such dispa… (see more)rities can be explained by several factors, including unequal access to healthcare, as well as the inability of low income groups to reduce their mobility due to work or social obligations. Moreover, senior citizens were found to be more susceptible to severe symptoms, largely due to age-related health reasons. Adapting vaccine distribution strategies to consider a range of demographics is therefore essential to address these disparities. In this study, we propose a novel approach that utilizes influence maximization (IM) on mobility networks to develop vaccination strategies which incorporate demographic fairness. By considering factors such as race, social status, age, and associated risk factors, we aim to optimize vaccine distribution to achieve various fairness definitions for one or more protected attributes at a time. Through extensive experiments conducted on Covid-19 spread in three major metropolitan areas across the United States, we demonstrate the effectiveness of our proposed approach in reducing disease transmission and promoting fairness in vaccination distribution.
From Representational Harms to Quality-of-Service Harms: A Case Study on Llama 2 Safety Safeguards
Khaoula Chehbouni
Megha Roshan
Emmanuel Ma
Futian Andrew Wei
Afaf Taïk
Jackie Ck Cheung
Balancing Act: Constraining Disparate Impact in Sparse Models
Meraj Hashemizadeh
Juan Ramirez
Rohan Sukumaran
Jose Gallego-Posada
Model pruning is a popular approach to enable the deployment of large deep learning models on edge devices with restricted computational or … (see more)storage capacities. Although sparse models achieve performance comparable to that of their dense counterparts at the level of the entire dataset, they exhibit high accuracy drops for some data sub-groups. Existing methods to mitigate this disparate impact induced by pruning (i) rely on surrogate metrics that address the problem indirectly and have limited interpretability; or (ii) scale poorly with the number of protected sub-groups in terms of computational cost. We propose a constrained optimization approach that directly addresses the disparate impact of pruning: our formulation bounds the accuracy change between the dense and sparse models, for each sub-group. This choice of constraints provides an interpretable success criterion to determine if a pruned model achieves acceptable disparity levels. Experimental results demonstrate that our technique scales reliably to problems involving large models and hundreds of protected sub-groups.
Causal Adversarial Perturbations for Individual Fairness and Robustness in Heterogeneous Data Spaces
Ahmad-reza Ehyaei
Kiarash Mohammadi
Amir-Hossein Karimi
S. Samadi
Fairness Through Domain Awareness: Mitigating Popularity Bias For Music Discovery
Rebecca Salganik
As online music platforms grow, music recommender systems play a vital role in helping users navigate and discover content within their vast… (see more) musical databases. At odds with this larger goal, is the presence of popularity bias, which causes algorithmic systems to favor mainstream content over, potentially more relevant, but niche items. In this work we explore the intrinsic relationship between music discovery and popularity bias. To mitigate this issue we propose a domain-aware, individual fairness-based approach which addresses popularity bias in graph neural network (GNNs) based recommender systems. Our approach uses individual fairness to reflect a ground truth listening experience, i.e., if two songs sound similar, this similarity should be reflected in their representations. In doing so, we facilitate meaningful music discovery that is robust to popularity bias and grounded in the music domain. We apply our BOOST methodology to two discovery based tasks, performing recommendations at both the playlist level and user level. Then, we ground our evaluation in the cold start setting, showing that our approach outperforms existing fairness benchmarks in both performance and recommendation of lesser-known content. Finally, our analysis explains why our proposed methodology is a novel and promising approach to mitigating popularity bias and improving the discovery of new and niche content in music recommender systems.
Causal Fair Metric: Bridging Causality, Individual Fairness, and Adversarial Robustness
Ahmad-reza Ehyaei
Samira Samadi
Despite the essential need for comprehensive considerations in responsible AI, factors like robustness, fairness, and causality are often st… (see more)udied in isolation. Adversarial perturbation, used to identify vulnerabilities in models, and individual fairness, aiming for equitable treatment of similar individuals, despite initial differences, both depend on metrics to generate comparable input data instances. Previous attempts to define such joint metrics often lack general assumptions about data or structural causal models and were unable to reflect counterfactual proximity. To address this, our paper introduces a causal fair metric formulated based on causal structures encompassing sensitive attributes and protected causal perturbation. To enhance the practicality of our metric, we propose metric learning as a method for metric estimation and deployment in real-world problems in the absence of structural causal models. We also demonstrate the application of our novel metric in classifiers. Empirical evaluation of real-world and synthetic datasets illustrates the effectiveness of our proposed metric in achieving an accurate classifier with fairness, resilience to adversarial perturbations, and a nuanced understanding of causal relationships.
FETA: Fairness Enforced Verifying, Training, and Predicting Algorithms for Neural Networks
Kiarash Mohammadi
Aishwarya Sivaraman
Unraveling the Interconnected Axes of Heterogeneity in Machine Learning for Democratic and Inclusive Advancements
Maryam Molamohammadi
Afaf Taïk
Tidying Up the Conversational Recommender Systems' Biases
Armin Moradi
The growing popularity of language models has sparked interest in conversational recommender systems (CRS) within both industry and research… (see more) circles. However, concerns regarding biases in these systems have emerged. While individual components of CRS have been subject to bias studies, a literature gap remains in understanding specific biases unique to CRS and how these biases may be amplified or reduced when integrated into complex CRS models. In this paper, we provide a concise review of biases in CRS by surveying recent literature. We examine the presence of biases throughout the system's pipeline and consider the challenges that arise from combining multiple models. Our study investigates biases in classic recommender systems and their relevance to CRS. Moreover, we address specific biases in CRS, considering variations with and without natural language understanding capabilities, along with biases related to dialogue systems and language models. Through our findings, we highlight the necessity of adopting a holistic perspective when dealing with biases in complex CRS models.
Social Media as a Vector for Escort Ads:A Study on OnlyFans advertisements on Twitter
Maricarmen Arenas
Pratheeksha Nair
Online sex trafficking is on the rise and a majority of trafficking victims report being advertised online. The use of OnlyFans as a platfor… (see more)m for adult content is also increasing, with Twitter as its main advertising tool. Furthermore, we know that traffickers usually work within a network and control multiple victims. Consequently, we suspect that there may be networks of traffickers promoting multiple OnlyFans accounts belonging to their victims. To this end, we present the first study of OnlyFans advertisements on Twitter in the context of finding organized activities. Preliminary analysis of this space shows that most tweets related to OnlyFans contain generic text, making text-based methods less reliable. Instead, focusing on what ties the authors of these tweets together, we propose a novel method for uncovering coordinated networks of users based on their behaviour. Our method, called Multi-Level Clustering (MLC), combines two levels of clustering that considers both the network structure as well as embedded node attribute information. It focuses jointly on user connections (through mentions) and content (through shared URLs). We apply MLC to real-world data of 2 million tweets pertaining to OnlyFans and analyse the detected groups. We also evaluate our method on synthetically generated data (with injected ground truth) and show its superior performance compared to competitive baselines. Finally, we discuss examples of organized clusters as case studies and provide interesting conclusions to our study.