A tool to mediate hate speech on the Internet is taking shape

A preventive tool thanks to which discussions on social networks can contain less hatred is being developed. At the end of September, the Code against hate hackathon took place. During a three-day online hackathon, participants from around the world discussed innovative solutions that can help reduce hate speech on the Internet. Open source software will be available to everyone around the world.

The hackathon was organised by a Slovak non-governmental organisation Digital Intelligence (digiQ), which deals with cyber safety and mitigation of hatred in the online environment.

Coders, software developers, IT students, academics and humanities experts from Slovakia, Estonia, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Nigeria, Mexico, Costa Rica and India in competition teams were looking for solutions on how to use technology to reduce online hate speech. An interdisciplinary approach was applied, the importance of which was also emphasised by Pavol Adamec from KPMG Slovakia: “Today’s problems cannot be solved by a single-disciplinary approach, it is necessary for several departments to work together, from psychology, sociology and information and communication technologies.”

The teams could use help of expert mentors from various fields, including artificial intelligence scientist Tomáš Mikolov from the Czech Institute of Informatics, Robotics and Cybernetics, Romanian developer Calin Vaida from Zetta Cloud, Estonian legal expert on freedom of speech Liisa Linna, researcher Marina Popescu from Romanian Median Research Center or sociologist Viera Žuborová from Bratislava Policy Institute.

On Friday, September 25, the hackathon was opened by Norberto Andrade, who leads the artificial intelligence ethics team on Facebook, a workshop on ethical rules and artificial intelligence, and Fadzai Madzingira, who pointed out specific social networking rules for online content and the need for contextualisation. On Saturday, Czech cryptography expert Jan Dušátko emphasised the need to approach the security of the proposed software as an integral part of the design solution from the first design. The end of the hackathon during which the jury consulted on the winning proposal belonged to the Director for Europe of Consulus, Stanislav Lencz, and his vision of leadership in a globalised world.

A jury composed of Pavol Adamec from KPMG Slovakia, Kelly Grossthal from the Estonian Human Rights Centre, Radu Raileanu from ActiveWatch and Andrea Cox from Digital Intelligence praised the design of a team named the Machine learning team. The team designed a plug-in solution that works preventively and at the time of writing a comment in case of hate speech will display a message to the user, which will suggest a re-evaluation of the text before it is published. In terms of software architecture, it is a machine learning model. This unique solution is easy to implement on various platforms through a plug-in. A multidisciplinary team of experts from several countries will adapt the tool to be able to identify more languages, not only the most widespread, but also, in terms of the number of users, those less used. The basic idea was presented by the team on the website http://rholly.sk/. One of the participants, Hanna Triin Sipos, evaluated the online event as follows: “I was very surprised at how well it all ended because I didn’t know what to expect. I learned a lot from other, more experienced people in the team, how to work on communication and what to display for the end user. I see a great potential for our project in the future.”

The five collaborating organisations will organise the continuation of the hackathon in early 2021, with an emphasis on software effectively targeting hate speech in visuals and memes.

Hackathon Code against hate is part of the European project Open Code for Hate-Free Communication, which aims to analyse content on social networks, take action and find solutions that work against online hate speech. The partners of the Open Code for Hate-Free Communication project are Eesti Inimõiguste Keskus from Estonia, ActiveWatch from Romania, NIGDY WIĘCEJ from Poland, Movimiento contra la Intolerancia from Spain and Digital Intelligence (digiQ) from Slovakia. Project was financially and expertly supported by the European Union from the Rights, Equality and Citizenship program, Facebook, Civitta Slovakia and KPMG Slovakia.

More information is available at www.codeagainsthate.eu.

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