Google’s latest project is an application called Perspective, which, as Wired reports, brings the tech company “a step closer to its goal of helping to foster troll-free discussion online, and filtering out the abusive comments that silence vulnerable voices.” In other words, Google is teaching computers how to censor.
If Google’s plans are not quite Orwellian enough for you, the practical results are rather more frightening. Released in February, Perspective’s partners include the New York Times, the Guardian, Wikipedia and the Economist. Google, whose motto is “Do the Right Thing,” is aiming its bowdlerism at public comment sections on newspaper websites, but the potential is far broader.
Perspective works by identifying the “toxicity level” of comments published online. Google states that Perspective will enable companies to “sort comments more effectively, or allow readers to more easily find relevant information.” Perspective’s demonstration website currently allows anyone to measure the “toxicity” of a word or phrase, according to its algorithm. What, then, constitutes a “toxic” comment?