Hate Speech and AI: Issues in Detection

Hate speech is a form of expression which attacks someone mostly based on their race, gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation. The history of hate speech dates back long time ago; however, with the expansion of the internet and social media, it had its most accelerated form. Now, 41% of the American population have experienced a form of online harassment as Pew Research Center’s report suggests. Also, the high correlation between suicide rates and verbal harrasment in migrant groups shows the crucial importance of detecting and preventing the spread of hate speech. Additonally as an instance from recent years, after the mass murder that happened in Pittsburg synagoge it has seen that the murderer was posting hated messages to jews constantly before the incident.



Retrieved from: https://www.kqed.org/news/11702239/why-its-so-hard-to-scrub-hate-speech-off-social-media


Furthermore, the Pew Research Center’s report also suggests that 79% of the American population thinks that the detection of hate speech/online harassment is in the responsibility of online service providers. Hence, many online service providers are aware of the importance of the issue and have close relationships with AI engineers while solving it.

When it comes to the logic of hate speech detection, there are many complex points. Firstly, such complexity comes from the current AI technologies’ limitations on understanding the contexts of human language. For instance, current technologies fail to detect hate speech or give false positives when there are contextual differences. As such, researchers from Carnegie Mellon University suggested that the toxicity of the speech may differ with the race, gender and ethnic characteristics of the people. Hence, to increase the quality of the data and detection; it is important to identify the characteristics of the author while identifying the hate speech and its toxicity rate according to the researchers. Also, such identification can also reduce the current bias the algorithms have.

Retrieved from: https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2017/07/11/online-harassment-2017/pi_2017-07-11_online-harassment_0-01/


However, current AI technologies have difficulties in detecting such characteristics. Firstly, it’s difficult to identify the demographics and characteristics of the authors’; since in most of the cases such information is not available on the internet. So, the process of distinguishing hate speech becomes harder. Secondly, even if the author clearly indicates such information; sometimes the detection process becomes more difficult due to the cultural insights of the given context. The dynamics of the countries or even the regions in countries is changeable and is really related to their culture and language. Such differences and ongoing changing factors are also crucial points for the outcomes of the processes; some outcomes may fail to detect or detect false positives due to non-statistical cultural differences.



Language is one of the most complicated and most significant functions of the humankind. There are many different ways and contexts of communicating with language which even neuroscientists could not fully map yet. However, with artificial intelligence scientists are also one step forward in describing the patterns and mechanisms of language. In such sense, the crucially important subject in the age of the internet, hate speech detection, also has an advantage since it is much easier to detect online harassment with machine learning algorithms. Nevertheless, there is no way for humans to get out of the detection cycle in today’s technology with the issues faced in detection processes.