Google Launches Troll-Fighting Tool Powered by Machine Learning

The rise of abusive remarks in online comments sections has prompted some publishers to do away with the comments feature altogether. But Google said its technology incubator has developed an alternative solution: a troll filter dubbed Perspective that's powered by machine learning.

Launched today by Google Jigsaw, Perspective is an application program interface (API) built on human reviewer ratings of hundreds of thousands of online comments. Starting from this human-determined baseline of what makes comments "toxic," Perspective then learns to automatically identify similar comments so they can be flagged by online publishers.

Sites can use the Jigsaw tool in a variety of ways. For instance, Perspective can be used to flag questionable comments so human moderators can review them and decide whether or not to publish them. Google said publishers can also use Perspective to let readers view the potential impacts of their comments as they write them, or to sort comments by toxicity to give preference to less abusive remarks.

Human Moderation Takes 'Money, Labor, Time'

Online harassment is a widespread problem, with nearly half of Internet users in the U.S. having personally experienced such treatment, Jigsaw president Jared Cohen wrote in a blog post today. Citing a 2016 study by the Data & Society Research Institute, Cohen noted that almost one-third of Americans reported that they had self-censored their online comments to avoid abusive responses.

"This problem doesn't just impact online readers," Cohen said. "News organizations want to encourage engagement and discussion around their content, but find that sorting through millions of comments to find those that are trolling or abusive takes a lot of money, labor, and time. As a result, many sites have shut down comments altogether. But they tell us that isn't the solution they want. We think technology can help."

Perspective, currently an "early-stage technology," was...

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