How Twitter, Others Deal With Online Hate Speech: Takeaways From BOOM's AIxDisinfo

The panelists spoke on how online hate speech targets women irrespective of their political inclination.

Twitter only takes action against one sixth of the complaints, despite the rampant cases of gender-based online abuse and trolling, while Muslim women and women political commentators are at the receiving end of the online hate speech. This, according to a study of 22 women by IT for Change."

Amshuman Dasarathy, research assistant at IT For Change said this while speaking during BOOM's webinar on 'AI and Extreme Speech', held on January 20. Dasarathy also referred to 'fraternal solidarity' of the trolls where trolls collectively targeted particular users and posts.

"Perhaps as a way to exploit the system of algorithmic amplification, we found the prevalence of this kind of hard aggression where users banded together to reply to only certain posts," he added. The study also points at the misogynistic nature of these attacks where women in politics are abused not for their work, but for their credentials or trivializing their role in politics.

Amshuman said that irrespective of the political leanings women received threats and abuses online. However, those women perceived to be left leaning and dissenters received 'disproportionate' amount of hate online.

The online trolling of women is a reflection of who we are, said veteran journalist and media expert Maya Mirchandani while speaking during the webinar along side Dasarathy and Elonnai Hickok, former COO of CIS India.

While Hickok spoke on the need for companies to devise regulatory elements to keep in check the online hate speech, Mirchandani spoke on the importance of counterspeech to tackle online hate and trolling. Counterspeech presents an alternative narrative s a measure to tackle hate speech, rather than using censorship as a tool.

"After I left active journalism in 2017, my first project was to work counter speech. I realised that counter speech is premised on the assumption that you reach out to a person's sensibilities and they will see the wisdom of their ways and do a course correction," she said.

However, according to her, the counter speech partly fails to leave an impact because people are 'married to their devices which keep telling us there is no need for counter speech'.

Elonnai Hickok said, "There is increasing awareness of the accountability that tech companies need to be held to." "She also said that a change in the business model of social media companies is needed. "There needs to be a buy-in from their shareholders and board as well."

Speaking on the differences between people's behaviour in the real and virtual world, she said, "This happens, typically because you are isolated you are within the bubble of yourself and your device, with nobody watching you. You're also emboldened to be something that you may not be in front of other people."

Mirchandani also spoke on the importance of correct terminology and definitions of hate speech employed by technology platforms owing to the difference between political and sociological difference between the Western and Indian context. "There is a great push by the Indian diplomatic community to ensure that the right-wing extremism nomenclature is restricted to white supremacist, neo Nazi frameworks. But there is a need to expand that definition and look at right wing religious extremism in India and Myanmar, also as extremism," she added.

The event was co-organised by BOOM and LMU Munich, led by Professor Sahana Udupa. Other than extreme speech, panelists discussed the threat and promise of AI and the intersection of AI and digital propaganda.

Updated On: 2022-02-11T12:30:09+05:30
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