Google Offshoot Uses AI To Fight Online Trolls

Google Offshoot Uses AI To Fight Online Trolls

Perspective is already being used by major news organizations to combat a rise in 'toxic' comments

Matt Vitone
  • 28 february 2017

Following a year of bitter divide in America which often played out in online comments sections, Jigsaw, a technology incubator within Alphabet (Google’s parent company) has just released a new open API that aims to create more civil discourse on the web. Aptly-named Perspective, the software uses machine learning to identify comments likely to derail a discussion, based on each comment’s level of ‘toxicity’ as scored on a scale of 0 to 100.

Launched this week, an open API will allow publishers to utilize the technology to monitor their own comments sections.

Perspective was first tested last year with The New York Times, which has been using the software to help moderate comments on its articles. The Time‘s comments section is currently moderated by a staff of 14, who sort through over 11,000 comments a day. Due to the time-consuming nature of the work, this means The Times is only able to open comments on about 10 percent of its articles.

“The new moderation system includes an optimized user interface and predictive models that will help The Times’s moderators group similar comments to make faster decisions, allowing more comments to be posted across The New York Times, while maintaining a respectful and substantive conversation,” said the paper in a press release.

online trolls

In order to better develop the technology, Jigsaw was given unprecedented access to The New York Times‘ comment archive. Perspective was then tasked with sorting through hundreds of thousands of comments to help it learn words and phrases that most humans considered ‘toxic’ and detrimental to discussions.

While still described as being in an “early-stage,” Perspective’s toxicity scoring serves as a helpful metric which could be used to determine which comments moderators allow on their sites. It could also be used to allow a reader to filter out comments based on how toxic they were rated.

“We have more information and more articles than any other time in history, and yet the toxicity of the conversations that follow those articles are driving people away from the conversation,” said Jigsaw President Jared Cohen in a statement to The Times.

While the paper has yet to report on the impact Perspective has had on its comments sections, Jigaw is also developing other technology for online news publications, including Project Shield, a tool that helps prevent DDoS attacks.


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