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Estimating Propensity for Causality-based Recommendation without Exposure Data

Zhongzhou Liu · Yuan Fang · Min Wu

Great Hall & Hall B1+B2 (level 1) #817
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Tue 12 Dec 3:15 p.m. PST — 5:15 p.m. PST


Causality-based recommendation systems focus on the causal effects of user-item interactions resulting from item exposure (i.e., which items are recommended or exposed to the user), as opposed to conventional correlation-based recommendation. They are gaining popularity due to their multi-sided benefits to users, sellers and platforms alike. However, existing causality-based recommendation methods require additional input in the form of exposure data and/or propensity scores (i.e., the probability of exposure) for training. Such data, crucial for modeling causality in recommendation, are often not available in real-world situations due to technical or privacy constraints. In this paper, we bridge the gap by proposing a new framework, called Propensity Estimation for Causality-based Recommendation (PropCare). It can estimate the propensity and exposure from a more practical setup, where only interaction data are available without any ground truth on exposure or propensity in training and inference. We demonstrate that, by relating the pairwise characteristics between propensity and item popularity, PropCare enables competitive causality-based recommendation given only the conventional interaction data. We further present a theoretical analysis on the bias of the causal effect under our model estimation. Finally, we empirically evaluate PropCare through both quantitative and qualitative experiments.

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