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Research Group Discovers Loophole in New Online ‘Hate Speech’ Detectors





State-of-the-art detectors that screen out online hate speech can be easily duped by humans, shows new study.

Hateful text and comments are an ever-increasing problem in online environments, yet addressing the rampant issue relies on being able to identify toxic content. A new study by the Aalto University Secure Systems research group has discovered weaknesses in many machine learning detectors currently used to recognize and keep hate speech at bay.

Many popular social media and online platforms use hate speech detectors that a team of researchers led by Professor N. Asokan have now shown to be brittle and easy to deceive. Bad grammar and awkward spelling–intentional or not–might make toxic social media comments harder for AI detectors to spot.

The team put seven state-of-the-art hate speech detectors to the test. All of them failed.

Modern natural language processing techniques (NLP) can classify text based on individual characters, words or sentences. When faced with textual data that differs from that used in their training, they begin to fumble.

‘We inserted typos, changed word boundaries or added neutral words to the original hate speech. Removing spaces between words was the most powerful attack, and a combination of these methods was effective even against Google’s comment-ranking system Perspective,’ says Tommi Gröndahl, doctoral student at Aalto University.

Google Perspective ranks the ‘toxicity’ of comments using text analysis methods. In 2017, researchers from the University of Washington showed that Google Perspective can be fooled by introducing simple typos. Gröndahl and his colleagues have now found that Perspective has since become resilient to simple typos yet can still be fooled by other modifications such as removing spaces or adding innocuous words like ‘love’.

A sentence like ‘I hate you’ slipped through the sieve and became non-hateful when modified into ‘Ihateyou love’.

The researchers note that in different contexts the same utterance can be regarded either as hateful or merely offensive. Hate speech is subjective and context-specific, which renders text analysis techniques insufficient as stand-alone solutions.

The researchers recommend that more attention be paid to the quality of data sets used to train machine learning models–rather than refining the model design. The results indicate that character-based detection could be a viable way to improve current applications.

The study was carried out in collaboration with researchers from University of Padua in Italy. The results will be presented at the ACM AISec workshop in October.

The study is part of an ongoing project called Deception Detection via Text Analysis in the Secure Systems group> at Aalto University.


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Black Student Awarded $725k in Lawsuit against Neo-Nazi Follower



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The first black woman to serve as American University’s student government president celebrated Friday after a lawsuit win in federal court against a neo-Nazi website manager who launched an online hate movement against her.

A federal judge awarded Taylor Dumspon, 22, approximately $725,000 after The Daily Stormer blog founder Andrew Anglin failed to respond to her lawsuit.

Dumpson was named student government president in 2017. The historic moment on AU’s campus amassed the attention of dozens of white supremacists, including Anglin, who directed his followers to troll Dumpson via social media after hearing the news, and a suspect who hung nooses with bananas containing racist messages on the university’s campus.

Here’s a breakdown of Dumpson’s settlement:

  • $101,429.28 for compensatory damages
  • $500,000 for punitive damages costs
  • $124,022.10 for attorneys’ fees and costs.

The judge is also said to have placed a restraining order against Anglin, his Moonbase Holdings limited liability company, and Brian Andrew Ade for internet harassment.

“This ruling should send a strong message to other white supremacists that they can and will be held accountable for hateful activity that constitutes unlawful discrimination, no matter whether it occurs online or in the real world,” said Kristen Clarke, the president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. The organization represented Dumpson in the case.

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Walmart Employees Call for the Corporation to Cease Profiting of Gun Sales



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Enraged Walmart employees are demanding the retail giant revoke its firearm sales following the back-to-back mass shootings at locations in El Paso, Texas and in Dayton, Ohio’s downtown district. The senseless killing sprees took the lives of over 30 victims and caused dozens of critical injuries.

The aftermath has left thousands of the corporation’s employees on edge, including, Thomas Marshall, a manager in Walmart’s San Bruno, California, e-commerce office, who took the initiative to organize a massive walkout on Wednesday. Marshall also requested his associates sign a petition, calling for the retailer to refrain from selling guns and ammunition.

“We have one demand, and that is all. We value Walmart and our fellow associates, but we are no longer willing to contribute our labor to a company that profits from the sale of deadly weapons,” the petition reads.

“We would like to see Walmart take a unified and public stance against guns and gun violence. We urge our leadership to cease the sale of all firearms and ammunition, ban the public open and concealed carry of weapons on company property and in all stores, and cease WALPAC donations to NRA backed -A/A+ politicians.”

Marshall’s petition has garnered nearly 60,000 signatures and continues to rapidly climb. While the courageous manager fears his job is in jeopardy, he intends to ramp up his protest by sending the petition directly to Walmart CEO Doug McMillon.

McMillon released a statement Wednesday, expressing his grief over the shootings. He ordered violent video games to be removed from all of the stores shelves but failed to address the elephant in the room –– gun distribution.

“We’ll be thoughtful and deliberate in our responses, and will act in a way that reflects our best values and ideals, focused on the needs of our customers, associates and communities,” he wrote.

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Eric Garner Supporters Disrupt Cory Booker’s Speech during Democratic Debate



The second Democratic debate in Detroit got real heated real quick. Just moments into Cory Booker’s speech, the presidential candidate was instantly disrupted by a rowdy group of protesters, bringing attention to the brutal killing of Eric Garner.

On July 17, 2014, Garner died after being put in an aggressive chokehold by New York police officer Daniel Pantaleo. The incident went viral and catalyzed a national movement against police brutality and racial discrimination.

Five years later, on Tuesday, the Staten Island grand jury has voted not to indict Pantaleo, causing an uproar among the Black Lives Matter organization and the victim’s family.

While the protest may have inconvenienced Booker’s moment to impress America, the timing was perfect in the eyes of the hecklers to call out the injustice they believe has occurred. ‘Fire Pantaleo!’ they chanted in unison, demanding for New York Mayor Bill de Blasio who has also thrown his hat in the 2020 election to terminate the officer effective immediately.

Booker chose to take the high road and showed his support on Twitter for the protest.

‘To the folks who were standing up to Mayor de Blasio a few minutes ago – good for you,’ he said.

‘That’s how change is made.’

De Blasio also responded, stating the issue would be resolved in 30 days but did not confirm whether the police officer would be fired.

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