The Anti-Defamation League has stated that social media companies YouTube, Twitter and Facebook may use the group’s “Online Hate Index” to detect hate speech on their platforms.
The ADL published a video on their YouTube page recently outlining the use of their new “Online Hate Index.” The video features Brittan Heller, the director of the ADL Center for Technology and Society. Heller explains the goal of the new index is to “help tech platforms better understand the growing amount of hate on social media, and to use that information to address the problem.” The index will reportedly use machine learning, artificial intelligence, and social science to identify trend and patterns in so-called “hate speech.”
The ADL claims that their machine learning model can identify “hate speech” with a 78 percent to 85 percent accuracy rate. “In the next phase of our project, we will look at specific targeted populations in a more detailed manner, we’ll examine content on multiple social media sites and we’ll identify strategies to deploy the model more broadly,” said Heller during the video. The ADL hopes that the index will help tech companies, “understand the extent of hateful conduct on their platforms.”
Given the ADL’s previous history of hyperbole when it comes to what counts as “hate speech” or extremist imagery, the fact that tech companies such as YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter may now use the group’s definitions of hate speech to crack down on users on their platforms is extremely worrying. The ADL famously classified the cartoon frog known as Pepe as a “hate symbol” when it was used by some members of the alt-right in memes during the 2016 election. Of course, many people outside of the alt-right used pictures of the cartoon character as it was a popular meme at the time. Will Facebook, YouTube and Twitter start banning images of Pepe for “hate speech” now that they’re taking direction from the ADL?
As the ADL grows their Online Hate Index, it leads many to wonder how long it will be before regular, everyday speech is added to the index. Soon will generally conservative opinions be automatically classified as hate speech by the ADL? Sites like YouTube are already threatening to censor conservatives like Alex Jones while Facebook and Google are being pressured by the EU to censor “hate speech” within an hour of it appearing on the platform.
Overall, this does not bode well for free speech on the internet.