By: Patricia Georgiou, Marie Pellat, and Daniel Borkan
When we launched Perspective in 2017 our goal was to improve conversations online at scale. Since then we’ve added the ability to detect toxic comments in Spanish, partnering with organizations like El Pais, increased the accuracy of the English-language model with help from partners like The New York Times, Change a View, and Wikipedia, and built Tune, a Chrome extension using Perspective’s language models, to give readers control over the comments they see.
Today we’re excited to continue growing Perspective’s and Tune’s language capabilities. Perspective is now available in French for comment moderation, starting with Le Monde, one of the French-speaking world’s most trusted news sources, and Tune is available for French-speakers to customize how much toxicity they want to see in comments.
Starting today, readers will experience a new version of Le Monde’s comment system that will encourage them to share views on subjects surfaced by the news. A healthy society needs a healthy debate, and the discussions amongst citizens, journalists and politicians are increasingly happening online, particularly in the comments around news. The European Union parliamentary elections are just around the corner and studies have shown that elections increase political chatter online and leave people angry and feeling disrespected. More than half of Internet users describe their online interactions with those they disagree with politically as “stressful and frustrating.”
Our goal with Perspective was precisely to develop technology tools that can help humans promote healthy conversations at scale. For the past few years many news organizations grappled with the issue of how to maintain conversation integrity, while moderating trolls and toxic conversation. Shutting down comments completely didn’t serve the audience or help editors engage with its readers. But with the advent of new technology leveraging artificial intelligence and particularly machine learning, like Perspective, publishers, writers and editors have access to the tools to help them build dialogue with their readers. That connection was one of the reasons El Pais wanted to integrate Perspective into their community. In fewer than six months, the average toxicity of their comments decreased seven percent and the number of comments increased 19%.
Perspective will help both commenters and Le Monde’s moderation team facilitate civil conversations around the elections and beyond. Commenters may receive real-time feedback if their comments violate community standards allowing them to see how others may react to their comments before they are published. For moderators, Perspective can help them quickly evaluate and sort comments according to their “toxicity,” defined as “a rude, disrespectful, or unreasonable comment that is likely to make people leave a discussion.”
But we also believe Internet users should have the direct ability to customize their experience of engaging with online discussions. That’s why in March we released Tune as an experiment to give people the power to control the comments they see across platforms, including YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, and Disqus. With Tune now available in French, Francophones can participate and follow the ongoing debates about political or societal issues without being put off by hateful or aggressive comments.
THE IMPORTANCE OF NEW LANGUAGE SKILLS
Teaching Perspective a new language means analyzing millions and millions of comments to “train” the model to detect language patterns. To detect toxicity in French, we began working with French news organizations including Le Monde, Le Parisien, and 20 Minutes to study public comments from their websites. Jigsaw researchers and engineers carefully trained the model to learn from mistakes to avoid issues like “false positives,” or flagging a comment as toxic when it is not. But even those kinds of mistakes are valuable because every time the model makes a mistake it’s an opportunity to learn and create a stronger model that understands the nuances of language.
The training process is the same with new languages and even dialects. Within the French and Spanish speaking world are multiple dialects with distinctive vocabularies. Twenty-nine countries name French as the official language, with Spanish not far behind with 20 countries officially speaking the language. And while Perspective is trained in Spanish and French, we are always looking for new partners to help us add language skills, and improve conversations at scale — so Perspective can be accurate in ever more languages and dialects, and with support from Google News Initiative, reach the news community globally.
WATCH THIS SPACE
Perspective is an evolving product — Jigsaw engineers and research scientists continuously train and improve our models, in collaboration with our partners. As with our Spanish language model and the original English model, we will be opening up the Perspective French-language model to developers and encouraging experimentation. You can request API access here.
We’re excited to continue adding languages because Perspective was launched with one goal in mind: enabling better conversations at scale. Every new language and partner that integrates Perspective gives more and more citizens around the world space to share ideas, debate, and even (respectfully) disagree.
Patricia Georgiou is Jigsaw’s head of partnerships and business development; Marie Pellat and Daniel Borkan are software engineers at Jigsaw.