It’s a sad fact of the internet that “reading below the line” into the comments section is often a frustrating experience. Whilst the ability to leave feedback on content can be great in many cases, seeing that feedback degenerate into a slanging match between commentators is all too common. We’ve seen the issue quite prominently on Twitter for example, with a number of high profile users choosing to leave the platform due to abuse being levelled at them. Google’s latest creation, Perspective, is set to change all of that.
The idea behind Perspective is, like many of Google’s creations, wonderfully simple. It’s a learning algorithm that uses comments flagged as offensive by users. When it spots a comment that has language similar to previously reported hurtful speech, it can automatically filter it or flag it for moderation.
From the users point of view, this can lead to communities which are more friendly. This could encourage more interaction, with people otherwise put off by the risk of insults from other users. For content creators, this will mean that less time will be spent moderating, leaving more time to perfect their craft.
There has been a lot of focus on the issue of the behaviour of people online recently, with some suggesting that the anonymity of the medium can bring out the worst in some people. Some high profile individuals and companies simply choose to restrict or even remove the ability to comment altogether. Perspective could well be the compromise that would save this approach being deemed necessary.
The service is currently being tested by The New York Times in their comments section. The algorithm is adaptable, “learning” more about speech as it goes, meaning that as time passes, it will become more and more successful at weeding out undesirable words.
Presently, the service only operates in English, but if the service proves to be a success, we wouldn’t be surprised to see that expand to other languages as well. As the database of insults is created by humans, there’s no reason that it has to be limited to English in the long run.