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Perspective is a new tool from Google that helps weed out ugly comments online

Why it matters to you

We've all rolled our eyes at online comments but we may be able to make the web a friendlier place with Perspective.

If you’re looking for a human cesspool, there is no better place to visit than the comment section of a YouTube video, a news article, or really, just about any anonymous public forum. But now, Google might have something of a solution. It’s called Perspective and it is a new technology from Google and Jigsaw (an Alphabet company focused on security) that employs machine learning to identify toxic comments. Once these comments are identified, publishers or users can start to weed them out.

According to a Google blog post announcement, 72 percent of American internet users have seen online harassment, and nearly 50 percent have experienced it themselves. “This problem doesn’t just impact online readers. News organizations want to encourage engagement and discussion around their content, but find that sorting through millions of comments to find those that are trolling or abusive takes a lot of money, labor, and time,” Google noted. “As a result, many sites have shut down comments altogether. But they tell us that isn’t the solution they want. We think technology can help.”

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So what exactly is this technology? The new technology looks into various comments and compares them to previous content that has been considered “toxic” by human reviewers. This allows for Perspective to assign a score to new comments, and as it is exposed to more and more information, it gets better at identifying the trash.

Once toxicity scores have been assigned, Perspective allows publishers to decide what to do with this information. “For example, a publisher could flag comments for its own moderators to review and decide whether to include them in a conversation. Or a publisher could provide tools to help their community understand the impact of what they are writing,” Google explained.

Already, a version of Perspective is being tested with the New York Times, where it is helping a team of human moderators sift through comments in a  more efficient manner. But moving forward, Perspective wants to do more. “[The technology] is about more than just improving comments,” Google concluded. “We hope we can help improve conversations online.”