Harassment-Detecting AI Should Be the Future of Social Media

August 9, 2016

10:14 am

With news that Yahoo has installed an AI algorithm that can detect 90 percent of abusive comments online, the world quietly rejoiced. Not because they were excited that Yahoo was finally able to make it in the news for something, but because cyber bullying, online harassment, and digital assaults have become all-too familiar topics in the discussion of the internet. And, with this new technology, we should be able to eradicate the behavior, right? Please?

Yahoo’s new AI has been a long time coming. While the importance of blocking harassment should be at the top of everyone’s list, previous attempts have proven too slow to make a difference. Fortunately, with a mix of machine learning and crowdsourced abuse detection, this technology has been able to scan the Yahoo News and Finance comments sections to prevent abusive language from popping up.

“While automatically detecting abusive language online is an important topic and task, the prior [abuse detection] has not been very unified, thus slowing progress … [abuse] can have a profound impact on the civility of a community or a user’s experience,” the developers wrote.

This technology can do so much more, though. According to data from the National Center for Education Statistics, more than 22 million students in high school experienced cyberbullying once or twice a year. Many celebrities on multiple occasions have dropped social media all together because of sexist, racist, and overall appalling messages they received in response to things as trivial as movie reboots and Beyoncé music videos. The online world has become a modern hellscape of derogatory language, offensive comments, and borderline sociopathic behavior, propagated by trolls that can’t handle the mantle of anonymity long enough to pick a Cheeto up off their keyboard.

Perhaps that was a bit dramatic. But we can all attest to the horrors of online behavior in the face of social media. We’ve all wandered down the thread of political arguments gone awry. We’ve all perused the comment section of an infamous YouTube video. After all, who hasn’t jumped down the rabbit hole of digital disputes and found nothing but insulting tirades and objectifying slurs?

With Yahoo’s technology, this might end. Many will complain that freedom of speech is protected, even when that speech is hurtful, insulting, and downright regressive. But hopefully, people will see the need to keep abusive behavior online at a minimum for the sake of the internet’s future and our own well-being.

H / T Mashable

Photo: Flickr / A Health Blog

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Conor is a writer, comedian and world-renowned sweetheart. As the Assistant Editor and Writer at Tech.Co, he’s written about everything from Kickstarter campaigns and budding startups to tech titans and innovative technologies. His background in stand-up comedy made him the perfect person to host Startup Night at SXSW and the Funding Q&A at Innovate! and Celebrate, posing questions to notable tech minds from around the world. In his spare time, he thinks about how to properly pronounce the word "colloquially." Conor is the Assistant Editor and Writer at Tech.Co. You can email him at conor@tech.co.

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