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Troll Hunters: The Twitterbots That Fight Against Online Abuse


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Evisioning bots to watch over us.

Some researchers are working to automate the detection of harassment, but the Illinois Institute of Technology's Libby Hemphill says humans do not agree on what constitutes harassment, which makes it difficult to train computers.

Credit: Artur Debat/Getty Images

Internet companies have made promises to deal with online abuse, but their efforts using human moderation have come up short. As a result, more researchers are looking to use bots as a solution to curbing online harassment.

The simplest way bots can help is with block lists, but the approach only works if someone adds an abusive account to the block list.

Some researchers are working to automate the detection of harassment, but the Illinois Institute of Technology's Libby Hemphill says humans do not agree on what constitutes harassment, so that makes it difficult to train computers.

Argue-bots have been developed to distract trolls from their human targets by drawing their attention and engaging with them. New York University's Kevin Munger developed a bot in an attempt to manipulate a troll's sense of group dynamics online. However, he does not want bots to be the endgame.

"I don't envision an army of bots telling people to behave themselves," Munger says.

From New Scientist
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