How Artificial Intelligence can help curb abuse on social media

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Artificial Intelligence
Artificial Intelligence

Need of Artificial Intelligence in Social Media

Abusive language has always been seen as a serious problem in any civilized society. It was further aggregated with advent information technology and social media. It brings immense psychological and emotional suffering to the victim of online abuse and harassment. Governments and social media organisations are trying to tackle the problem but have met with a very little success. Artificial intelligence can be leveraged to address the menace of abuse on social media.

Background

The Internet is one of the most significant inventions of the twentieth century, and it has changed the landscape of the human life in recent years. Most importantly, it has revolutionised our way of communication completely. Social media has emerged as one of the most significant media of communication and interaction in the contemporary society. Now it has become an integral part our lives nowadays.

According to the Oxford dictionary, social media comprises websites and web-based applications that enable users to create and share content or to participate in social networking. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, What’s app, Viber, YouTube and Snapchat are the pioneering examples of it. According to statista.com, 2.46 billion people in the world use social media in some form, and it is going to cross the 3 billion mark by 2021. Facebook alone has more than 2 billion active users as of today. India has around 196 million and 194 million social media and Facebook users respectively.

Development of the mobile technology has further magnified the impact of the social media as mobile devices enable all mobile users to connect to the social media anywhere, at any time. According to Statistics.com, approximately 2.3 billion people use smartphones around the world. The mobile phone makes social media more impactful entity.

Social media not only allow the people to connect with each other but also empowers common people, allows politicians to connect with masses, and helps the commercial organisations in their businesses etc. It is worth mentioning that US President Donald Trump told the Financial Times in early April “Without the tweets, I wouldn’t be here”. Along with the stated advantages, social media has many disadvantages as well.

Challenges of Social media

Social media is a double-edged sword. Along with many advantages, it has brought many problems that pose threat to the security and stability of our lives and society. Social media has been exploited to spread the fabricated information, rumours and extremist ideology. It has also been exploited by the hackers to steal private information of users such as password, birth date and email address etc. Cyberbullying is also a menace, which includes sending, posting, or sharing negative, harmful, false, or meaningful content about someone else. It may also include sharing personal or private information about someone else causing embarrassment or humiliation. Moreover, nowadays, social media is used by the thieves and burglars to find out potential prey. For instance, if one posts current location saying that he is on a long vacation and will be out of the town for a week, he is exposing his house to theft.

But among most concerning is the abusive language used by users on different social media platforms. Social media is supposed to drive healthy discussion on the political, social any other issue, but some people become aggressive and use vulgar, racial and abusive language against the people with whom they don’t agree. More often females, celebrity and public figures fall prey to abusive language, sexual and vulgar comments. According to the research of the United Nations, almost three-quarters of women online have been exposed to some sort of “cyberviolence”. Such behaviour is not only morally wrong but also poses a great threat to freedom of expression and critical thinking, which is essential for the scientific, social and economic progress.

Thus it is extremely important to deal effectively with the menace of abuse on social media.

Existing mechanisms to deal with online abuse

Both Indian government and social media organisations are trying to deal with this problem nowadays. Firstly, social media organisations have devised a policy to deal with the abusive language and inappropriate content on their respective platform.

Most social media sites already have mechanisms in place for reporting abusive/inappropriate behaviour and blocking abusive users. All social media sites use more or less following steps to deal with it.

  • Identify and report inappropriate content
  • Report inappropriate content/Harassment or other issues.
  • Block the abuser.

Secondly, Government enacted Information Technology Act, 2000 (IT Act) to deal with e-commerce and electronic records, and also to punish e-commerce offences. In 2008, Government further amended the IT Act to deal with offences such as intimidation, insult, annoying, harassment, defamation, etc. in cyberspace.

Specifically, section 66A of IT Act deals with these online harassment related crimes. Sending any message (through a computer or a communication device) that is grossly offensive or has menacing character; any communication which he/she knows to be false, but for the purpose of causing insult, annoyance and criminal intimidation come under this section. This crime, under the current IT/Cyber/Criminal laws in India is punishable up to three years with a fine.

But section 66A of the IT Act was gravely misused to suppress the freedom of speech and expression rather than to deal with abuse on the social media, thus the Supreme Court has struck down the controversial Section 66A of the IT Act terming it unconstitutional and untenable. According to the section, police had the power to arrest anyone for sending offensive messages from mobiles and computers with up to 3 years in jail. The court further pointed out that it poses threat to freedom of speech and expression.

Though section 66A has been quashed by the Supreme Court, the government will come up with an improved law to deal with the problem. But it is important to note that both of these methods are reactive in nature as both come into play when the offence/damage is done. In other words, these methods do not protect the victim from the trauma of abuse on the social media and other inappropriate comments, which victim undergo through. A new law wouldn’t help rather it would add up some more cases in the 25-30 million cases pending in various courts, which are already facing a severe shortage of Judges. As Former Chief Justice of India T S Thakur pointed out last year that courts in the country now require more than 70,000 judges to clear the pending cases.

Thus, it’s required to devise the proactive approach to deal with the problem, in which one doesn’t have undergo the trauma of online abuse.

Way Forward

Artificial intelligence (AI) can help us to deal with the menace of abuse on the social media.

Earlier, Information Technology did not have the capacity to think and act like simple living being forget about intelligent human being. But now scientists have developed Artificial intelligence.

Artificial Intelligence, sub-branch of the information technology, is the talk of the town nowadays, and it is going to have a huge impact on our lives. AI is already helping us in many areas of our life such as virtual personal assistant like Siri, in fraud detection and in purchase prediction etc. It can also help us in combating the problem of abuse on the social media.

The government should encourage social media organisations to employ the Artificial intelligence. Social media organisations and government should invest in the research and development of Artificial intelligence to develop the algorithm, which can verify the content before sharing and posting on social media platforms. AI must not only have the capability to detect the inappropriate word but it must also have the ability to understand the sense of the sentence(s) and take decision accordingly. For instance, whenever a social media user types anything in the dialogue box, the algorithm must read and understand the content. Artificial Intelligence should allow publishing the content on social media platforms only if it finds the content unobjectionable else, it should reject the post, stating the reason for rejection. Such mechanisms would solve the problem of abuse on the social media to a large extent.

In a nutshell, both Indian government and social media organisations should collaborate with each other to find the solution. Both should focus and invest in the research of the development Artificial intelligence. It can be used to combat the abuse on the social media effectively, and protect the victim from the psychological and emotional trauma of online abuse and harassment.


Also published on Medium.