Adversarial Counterfactual Learning and Evaluation for Recommender System

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 33 (NeurIPS 2020)

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Da Xu, Chuanwei Ruan, Evren Korpeoglu, Sushant Kumar, Kannan Achan


<p>The feedback data of recommender systems are often subject to what was exposed to the users; however, most learning and evaluation methods do not account for the underlying exposure mechanism. We first show in theory that applying supervised learning to detect user preferences may end up with inconsistent results in the absence of exposure information. The counterfactual propensity-weighting approach from causal inference can account for the exposure mechanism; nevertheless, the partial-observation nature of the feedback data can cause identifiability issues. We propose a principled solution by introducing a minimax empirical risk formulation. We show that the relaxation of the dual problem can be converted to an adversarial game between two recommendation models, where the opponent of the candidate model characterizes the underlying exposure mechanism. We provide learning bounds and conduct extensive simulation studies to illustrate and justify the proposed approach over a broad range of recommendation settings, which shed insights on the various benefits of the proposed approach.</p>