Google’s new toxic-language algorithm is surprisingly TERRIBLE at detecting toxic language

There’s little doubt that AI and robots pose a very interesting challenge to the assumptions human beings have about work, utility, wages, and productivity. “Labor-saving” was always a positive adjective, but lately it seems more like a threat. In certain quarters of Silicon Valley, however, the war’s already been lost, the rise of the robots is inevitable and there’s nothing we can do about it.

Every now and then, though, you run into an example of how hard it is for machines to mimic the kinds of intellectual work we do with hardly a thought. A recent example is Perspective, the new machine-learning service that Alphabet (as Google is now called) released yesterday. The purpose of Perspective is to use machine learning to identify hateful or trollish content on message boards as a way of enhancing the quality of online discourse. In the wake of the 2016 elections, in which armies of anti-Clinton trolls paid by the Russian government almost certainly had a significant impact on the outcome, the question of how to improve social media is a pressing one indeed, and I wish Alphabet all the luck in the world in achieving that objective.

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