Researchers at U of Waterloo say they've developed a Reddit-trained AI program that detects hate speech

8,266 Reddit discussions with 18,359 labelled comments from 850 communities were used in the training.

Researchers at U of Waterloo say they've developed a Reddit-trained AI program that detects hate speech
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A group of researchers at the University of Waterloo say that they have developed a program trained by Reddit discussions that can detect online hate speech on social media platforms.

The Multi-Modal Discussion Transformer (mDT) works at a 88 percent accuracy rate, the school says. Computer science PhD student Liam Hebert claimed that the technology will reduce the "emotional cost of having humans sift through hate speech manually.”

“We believe that by taking a community-centred approach in our applications of AI, we can help create safer online spaces for all,” he said.

The school states that the mDT can understand the connection between text and images, as well as comprehend the broader context surrounding comments.

The program also reportedly minimizes the number of false positives by identifying comments that have been mistakenly flagged as hate speech due to the presence of culturally sensitive language.

“Context is very important when understanding hate speech,” Hebert said.

“For example, the comment ‘That’s gross!’ might be innocuous by itself, but its meaning changes dramatically if it’s in response to a photo of pizza with pineapple versus a person from a marginalized group. Understanding that distinction is easy for humans, but training a model to understand the contextual connections in a discussion, including considering the images and other multimedia elements within them, is a very hard problem," he said to Global News.

Hebert and his team trained their model using a dataset that included instances of hate speech along with the contextual information for the comments.

8,266 Reddit discussions with 18,359 labelled comments from 850 communities were used in the training.

“More than three billion people use social media every day,” Hebert continued. “The impact of these social media platforms has reached unprecedented levels. There’s a huge need to detect hate speech on a large scale to build spaces where everyone is respected and safe.”

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