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Tests show Alphabet’s comment-ranking tool mistakes neutral comments as offensive

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Tests show Alphabet’s comment-ranking tool mistakes neutral comments as offensive

Created by Jigsaw, Alphabet’s internal incubator, Perspective was launched earlier this year to help moderate online comments based on their offensiveness. But Engadget discovered that the results of the tool can be extremely questionable, as it ranks neutral sentences such as “I am a gay black woman” as highly offensive.

The problem most likely results from the fact that Perspective’s algorithm looked at existing online comments and deducted that words such as “gay” and “black” often exist alongside offensive comments. But the software is seemingly incapable of making a difference between offensive words and meaning on a sentence level, and concentrates on the former rather than the latter.

The discovery highlights the need for transparency when dealing with algorithms that rank and moderate content. Recently it was discovered that Facebook has in some cases been overzealous in identifying content as “hateful”, seemingly because it was posted by black users.

The New York Times has partnered with Jigsaw in the creation of Perspective, allowing the system’s algorithm to look into and learn from the publisher’s online comment archives.

Author

Teemu Henriksson's picture

Teemu Henriksson

Date

2017-09-05 12:54

Author information

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