Working on AI algorithm can help create safe spaces against online abuse

A new algorithm being developed to tackle online gender abuse could help “drive positive social and cultural change”.

The governments of Scotland and the United Kingdom both welcome the work of researchers at the National Robotarium, involving Heriot-Watt University and the University of Edinburgh.

There, researchers are working on advanced machine learning algorithms that can significantly improve the detection of online abuse, as well as help with intervention and prevention.

The project, which has been awarded £1 million from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), will create high-tech AI tools that leverage a wide range of viewpoints, perspectives and experiences to improve the detection of online abuse.

In addition, the work includes developing new educational materials to help young people understand and recognize gender-based violence online, and to respond more confidently to it.

Professor Verena Riese

Professor Verena Rieser said the work would help create ‘online spaces that are equally safe regardless of one’s gender, race or background’ (National Robotarium/PA)

Lead researcher and professor of conversational AI at the National Robotarium, Verena Rieser, said the project is “rethinking what we need to detect online abuse,” as well as “how best to support victims and the role education can play as a resource.” for prevention”.

The Heriot-Watt University professor added: “The results of the project will help create online spaces that are equally safe regardless of one’s gender, race or background, and provide more effective and transparent moderation tools, giving users greater control over their online experiences. †

Co-researcher and reader in computer science education at the National Robotarium, Dr. Fiona McNeill, said that since online abuse can be a “big problem for children and young people” as well as adults, the project “will work with young people to understand their experiences of online abuse, the language they use around it and the way on which young victims should be supported”.

She said: “Through this interactive work, we will create educational materials that help young people understand and recognize gender-based violence online, gain confidence to respond to it, either as a victim or bystander, and recognize if they are committing it.” .”

Scottish ministry minister Iain Stewart welcomed the inquiry and said: “Hate speech and harassment are just as unacceptable online as they are offline.

“For too long, online platforms have enabled the most vicious forms of targeted abuse with almost no impact on perpetrators, and minimal support and protection for victims.

“I am hopeful that this research into new AI algorithms will be a valuable tool to fight back and create safer online environments.”

Scottish Economy Minister Kate Forbes said: “Everyone should feel equally safe and respected, both online and offline.”

She added: “As a key part of the City Region Deal, the team behind the National Robotarium is working to tackle online abuse, using artificial intelligence to make our society more inclusive.

“This work will bring about positive social and cultural change, with the potential to create an impact felt far beyond Edinburgh and southeastern Scotland.”

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