AI Can Distinguish Abusive Language Online

So far, we’ve used artificial intelligence much to our advantage in whatever way possible. We’ve built devices as trivial as visual emotion masks, but overall, people feel mostly optimistic. But now that we know AI can serve purposes of various degrees of impact, developers from McGill University are developing an AI that can recognize hate speech on social media.

Instead of focusing on isolated words and phrases, they taught machine learning software to spot hate speech by learning how members of hateful communities speak… They focused on three groups who are often the target of abuse: African Americans, overweight people and women.

Previous softwares detecting abusive language have proven unsuccessful due to the misleading nature of online slang. That and the fact that machines aren’t well-versed in sarcasm. The system, however, was able to identify racist slurs and avoided false positives. And I believe this first step in compiling data about sites that condone and even encourage abusive language can lead to finding solutions in the future. Perhaps hopefully, not just online. After all, our material reality reflects our online visual reality, and vice versa.

“Comparing hateful and non-hateful communities to find the language that distinguishes them is a clever solution… [But] ultimately, hate speech is a subjective phenomenon that requires human judgment to identify,”

While it won’t eliminate every online bully, it’s a commendable attempt at making the Internet a safer environment.

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Young Bug Lover Helps Write Scientific Thesis

Kids these days are ditching Playstations for programming tools, priding themselves on being the smartest generation yet. However, there are some who prefer going back to basics. Classmates bullied 8-year-old Sophia Spencer for her obsession with bugs. The young bug lover got back at her tormenters, co-writing a paper in the Annals of the Entomological Society of America.

“I really thought loving bugs wasn’t the best hobby,” [said Sophia] “But after I realized bugs are for girls I thought to myself, ‘Well, I think I should start loving bugs again, because just because people say they’re weird and gross doesn’t mean I shouldn’t like them.’”

This kid is more self-aware than I am. Sophia’s passion inspired mom Nicole to contact the Entomological Society of Canada for advice. The group tweeted Spencer’s plea, garnering replies from bug enthusiasts all over the world. Eventually, Ph.D. candidate Morgan Jackson invited Sophia to help compose a scientific thesis promoting women in science.

“It felt good to have so many people support me, and it was cool to see other girls and grown-ups studying bugs,” she wrote. “It made me feel like I could do it too, and I definitely, definitely, definitely want to study bugs when I grow up, probably grasshoppers.”

Sophia’s contribution to a cool scientific thesis at age 8 is living proof that one’s interests are never age nor gender-specific. So a word to parents — encourage your children’s passions, even when it seems “weird” or “gross” or “not for boys/girls.” The era we live in nurtures a plethora of possibilities, and so should you.

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Be A 5-Star Hostess At Your Local Animal Shelter

For stray pups and wandering felines, an animal shelter is a stepping stone towards a forever home. Or at least it should be. Some promising residents become therapy dogs, while others find families through dating apps (yes, you read that right). Others don’t seem to hit the jackpot. If you’re an animal lover but lack the extra space for a furry friend, volunteering at a shelter might be the perfect side hustle.

As with any non-profit, making a difference isn’t just a monthly stint. Charity groups, especially those that cater to animals, require time commitments. Before diving into the deep end, arrange your schedule. Anyway, most organizations will indicate a minimum amount of hours for students or working volunteers.

Be ready to train. Depending on what you sign up for, training programs may or may not be required. After all, you don’t want to be chasing after a Road Runner stray without the proper equipment. When it comes down to actual tasks, work with your skills and strengths. Do you have an eye for photography? Snapping headshots of handsome adoptables may be the job for you. Are you hands-on and nifty with a comb? Grooming might be your thing.

Animal shelters are all about their tenants and like any hotel, require a load of maintenance. Beyond the animals, you can participate in clerical or manual work. Accountants are totally underrated, despite a slew of paperwork and finances pulled from medical care, neuter-and-spay services, and food alone. Similarly, anyone familiar with carpentry could construct pens and crates.

Supporting your cause remotely is also highly doable (and effective), especially in this day and age. Spread the word by posting your experiences on social media, handing out fliers, and inviting experts to speak at special events. If you have a nickel to spare, gather supplies. While most needed items are often laying around your storage cupboard, others are a little more elusive. Pay a visit to your local Pet Smart. Use Facebook to your advantage to call for donations. Consult sites such as Amazon or eBay — with caution!

If you’re big on events, there’s no going wrong hosting a fundraiser. Whether it be a birthday bash, a school fair, or simple food drive, donate your earnings to your favorite shelter. Even better, allot time to highlight your cause through a speech, video, or game. Learning is always fun when it’s, you know, fun.

At the end of the day, if you’re itching for a companion but can’t yet set aside the funds to care for one permanently, foster them. Falling in love with your temporary house guest may leave you in a sticky situation. Still, the outcome (usually adoption) is often heartwarming one.

Puppies in pet stores may certainly be more attractive than grown ones behind cage doors. Nevertheless, any dog’s eagerness to love and accept you are often immeasurable, regardless of breed or age. They are, after all, everyone’s favorite friend.

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Stars Post Embarrassing Photos For Hurricane Relief

Stories of Houston bakers donating bread to hurricane victims and an air force couple postponing their wedding to rescue Floridians have undisputedly warmed our hearts. Among the wreckage, we appreciate the good news — and we’re glad it hasn’t stopped there. Hollywood stars are posting hilarious childhood snaps on social media in an effort to raise funds for Puerto Rico.

“I’m happy to announce that for every celebrity—and I get to determine who’s a celebrity—who posts their awkward teenage photos with the hashtags #PuberMe and #PuertoRicoRelief, the AmeriCone Dream Foundation will donate $1,000 to One America Appeal,” [Steven] Colbert announced [on his show].

Since the call-out, actors such as Reese Witherspoon, Steve Martin, and Kathy Griffin have publicly embarrassed themselves for the cause. These celebrities join Jennifer Lopez, who donated $1 million, and Beyonce, who is forwarding proceeds from her single to charities, in the fight to help Puerto Rico.

Trying times may call for desperate measures — but we sure do enjoy a laugh for charity. And if you aren’t of celebrity status, there are still a handful of ways to give back.

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Say Goodbye To Instagram Bullies

In a recent post, I discussed the social media monster that is cyberbullying. While we take most issues regarding online harassment into our own hands, it seems that Internet giants such as Instagram want in on the war against trolls and spammers.

Instagram is using AI to try and understand the context around offensive speech and get rid of abuse even if it doesn’t trigger specific keywords. That should help mitigate the cat-and-mouse nature of fighting hateful comments, although it currently only works in English.

Instagram’s keyword filter feature has been a hit with users who prefer not to see certain types of content–but to know that these platforms continue to battle hate speech is reassuring.

The AI system, called DeepText, is able to identify offensive language. For example, it can understand that the word “white” may not be offensive as a color or title (White Sox, white snow), but that “white power” could be offensive in many uses.

Accurately discerning what is offensive remains to be somewhat sticky for AIs, but there is no doubting that technologies like these will see constant improvement.

Are you using this new feature?

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Cyberbullying Is So Out Of Fashion

Here are a list of things that are no longer relevant today: the Katy Perry-Taylor Swift feud; apple-bottom jeans and boots with the fur; the T-Mobile Sidekick; and privacy. Yes, privacy. If you haven’t noticed, “What you say can and will be used against you,” is no longer just a Miranda Right.

The 21st century has been a dangerous era for teenagers in particular. With a lack of privacy arrives the need to keep up appearances. Uploading a photo onto your Instagram account is never as simple as sharing a moment but sharing wealth and status. A critical tweet is not just about an opinion but being inarguably right. Networks comprise of the easily offended and those who are “just putting others in their place.” After all, next to Disneyland, social media is the happiest place on earth–for people who are winning at it.

As a person who is far from soft-spoken, my handles are laden with bare-faced selfies, erotic poetry, and new philosophies. I often receive a generous amount of likes and positive comments regarding my boldness and bravery, save for the occasional hater who thinks I am “too loud.” When sharks bite, do you bite back? A younger me would’ve certainly thought so. But if social media is a perpetual game of who can be meaner, who wins? Does it even really matter?

Believe it or not, not everyone is out to offend you. When someone has realized they have hurt you by means of understanding facial expressions and the tone of your voice, they will, more often than not, apologize. This doesn’t exist on FaceBook and Twitter, where movements are carefully calculated and empathy remains a thing of the past.

Cyber bullies, who are shielded by a trusty sheet of fiber optic glass, are plagued with mob mentality, as they are usually part of one. People thrive on validation, and those who join Internet mobs don’t always do so with bad intentions. After all, if the majority thinks it, it must be true. Sometimes, they are just ill-advised.

This isn’t to say there aren’t some truly nasty players out in the virtual field. Some studies claim that cyber bullying has exponentially more negative effects than face-to-face abuse–this is because people feel less obligation to help, especially when disparaging tweets are easily swept away by a sea of song lyrics, play-by-plays, and borderline-creepy statements about Harry Styles.

Instructing kids to stay off social media is no longer an effective method of protection. After all, having an iPhone is no longer an option but a necessity. So how do we avoid getting cyber bullied? The simple answer is we can’t. But it’s up to us to respond.

Bullies thrive on attention. Anger is the fuel to their vehicle. Kill them with kindness or leave them in the dust. Whatever the case, act dignified. Compassion is a bully’s very own Kryptonite.

Report them. Harassment is by no means free speech. Reach out. Hardly ever is there a case where you are the “only one.” Educate yourself and others. Draw the line somewhere. The mute button is just a click away. Attack no one, but defend yourself. Know that bullies are people too.

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