Wed | May 23, 2018

Tech Times | Toxic comments, bane of many news sites, get a tech fix

Published:Monday | March 6, 2017 | 12:00 AM

A high-tech fix is in the works for toxic online comments on media sites.

Jigsaw, an incubator company within Google's parent company Alphabet, has developed a technology that it says news publishers could use to make it easier to moderate discussions and lessen the adversarial nature of comments sections at the end of articles.

Concern about online harassment within comments sections has led many media sites to drop comments. Count The Week, The Verge, ReCode, Reuters and Popular Science among those who have dropped them over the last few years. So did For The Win, a USA TODAY sports site. Wired even created a timeline on the demise of comments sections.

Those sites had reason for concern. Most US Internet users (72%) have seen harassment online and nearly half (47%) have experienced it, according to a report released in November 2016 by the Data & Society Research Institute and the Center for Innovative Public Health Research.

Website comments sections were a likely scene of online harassment. Some 22% of Internet users who participated in a 2014 Pew Research Center report said it happened to them there.




Jigsaw has what could be a countermeasure for media and other online sites seeking to foster civil discussion on news and other topics. The technology, called Perspective, rates the toxicity of online comments - each new comment is compared to a massive collection of conversations already rated. Using machine learning, Perspective constantly evolves its ratings as new comments are added to the data set.