Google’s ‘Tune’ Browser Extension Allows Users to Hide ‘Toxic’ Comments Online

The Associated Press
Ng Han Guan/AP
CHARLIE NASH

A new browser extension from Google company Jigsaw, formerly known as Google Ideas, allows users to hide “toxic” comments online.

The extension, Tune, boasts that it “helps people control the volume of the conversation they see,” through a digital dial, which can turn “toxic” comments completely off, or allow only a small amount of comments to be seen.

“Tune is an experimental Chrome extension from Jigsaw that lets people customize how much toxicity they want to see in comments across the internet. Tune builds on the same machine learning models that power Perspective to let people set the ‘volume’ of conversations on a number of popular platforms, including YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, and Disqus,” advertised the browser plug-in.  “Tune lets you turn the volume of toxic comments down for ‘zen mode’ to skip comments completely, or turn it up to see everything—even the mean stuff.”

“Or you can set the volume somewhere in between to customize the level of toxicity (e.g. attacks, insults, profanity, etc) you’re willing to see in comments,” it continued, warning that the extension is still “experimental” and “still misses some toxic comments and incorrectly hides some non-toxic comments.”

“Tune isn’t meant to be a solution for direct targets of harassment (for whom seeing direct threats can be vital for their safety), nor is Tune a solution for all toxicity,” noted the extension. “Rather, it’s an experiment to show people how machine learning technology can create new ways to empower people as they read discussions online.”

Perspective, the Jigsaw-developed system which Tune uses, has related “experiments” with Wikipedia, the New York Times, the Guardian, and the Economist, which are also interested in removing “toxic” comments from their websites.

Wikipedia is reportedly “researching ways to detect personal attacks against volunteer editors on Wikipedia, while the New York Times is “building an open source moderation tool to expand community discussion.”

“The Economist is reshaping its comments platform to foster thought-provoking, high-quality debate among its readers,” according to Jigsaw, while the “Guardian is researching how best to moderate comment forums and host better discussions with readers and journalists online.”

Breitbart Tech reported on Perspective in 2017, revealing how the biased system deemed hate and criticism against Muslims to be more “toxic” than that against Christians, and how hate against conservatives was deemed as more toxic than that against socialists and liberals.

As reported in August 2017:

“I hate Muslims” was a comment deemed 96 percent “toxic” by Google’s A.I. tool, while “I hate Christians” was deemed just 91 percent toxic.

“Islam is bad” was also given an 86 percent toxicity level, while “Christianity is bad” was rated 71 percent toxic.

Ironically, Perspective considered passages of the Koran that encouraged the murder and enslavement of non-Muslims, as well as misogynistic passages, to be less toxic than reasonable criticism of Islam itself.

Other examples of biases included:

“Islam is regressive” (70 percent toxic) / “Christianity is regressive” (42 percent toxic)
“Conservatives should be in prison” (77 percent toxic) / “Socialists should be in prison” (80 percent toxic) / “Liberals should be in prison” (81 percent toxic)
“Gay people are evil” (87 percent toxic) / “Trans people are evil” (80 percent toxic) / “Straight people are evil” (74 percent toxic) / “Bisexual people are evil” (43 percent toxic)
“Vote Trump” (34 percent toxic) / “Vote Hillary” (22 percent toxic) / “Vote Jeb” (13 percent toxic)

Recently, free speech social network Gab released its own browser extension, Dissenter, which allows users with the extension installed to comment on any web page on the Internet.

Others can then also see the comments if they too have the extension installed, or if they are browsing the Dissenter website, and can upvote, downvote, and reply to comments.

The extension has been praised for allowing free speech online in an era where Big Tech companies are cracking down on speech.

“Dissenter creates a free speech comment section for any URL on the web,” explained Gab founder Andrew Torba to Breitbart Tech. “Anyone with a Gab.com account can access Dissenter, and utilize it to express themselves on any content on the internet in any way they see fit, as long as their chosen form of expression is legal in the United States.”

“Dissenter has become a necessary tool due to rampant corporate censorship of ordinary internet users, whether that takes the form of YouTube demonetizing millions of videos and removing comment sections, Facebook and Instagram banning British activist Tommy Robinson for his political opinions, or Netflix banning comedy shows at the behest of Saudi princes,” he continued, adding, “A free, open-source utility that allows people to dissent from orthodoxy and express what they are really thinking, without fear of reprisal, is essential in order to wrest control of the Internet and public discourse from Silicon Valley tech giants.”

Charlie Nash is a reporter for Breitbart Tech. You can follow him on Twitter, or like his page at Facebook.

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