Skip to Content

Perceptive Algorithms Are Battling to Spot More of the Web’s Toxic Content

December 20, 2017

A new competition could help clean up the Internet. Kaggle, a site that lets organizations run data science competitions, just revealed its latest project, which asks competitors to build AIs that spot toxic comments.

Competitors are asked to build a system that can tackle “different types of of toxicity like threats, obscenity, insults, and identity-based hate.” Backing the competition is Jigsaw, a part of Alphabet, which runs a research initiative called Conversation AI to improve online discourse. To win the $35,000 prize on Kaggle, an entry will have to beat the results of a system built by Jigsaw, called Perspective API. Since it launched on Tuesday, 199 teams have joined the competition.

The Internet certainly could do with more, and better, tools to clean up threats and hate speech. Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter have all struggled to police such content in the past, and most big tech firms insist that AI can help them clean it up in the future. But none of them have yet nailed it, and governments are unhappy about failures to get hate speech taken down quickly.

Big tech firms are trying, though. Facebook launched a tool called Deeptext in 2016 to detect sentiment in comments in order to root out inappropriate content. It takes down about 66,000 comments a week but still has thousands of people monitoring feeds. Twitter, meanwhile, announced this week that it will be banning accounts that send threatening tweets and messages.

Perhaps the Kaggle competition will help finally crack the problem.

Deep Dive


Embracing CX in the metaverse

More than just meeting customers where they are, the metaverse offers opportunities to transform customer experience.

Identity protection is key to metaverse innovation

As immersive experiences in the metaverse become more sophisticated, so does the threat landscape.

The modern enterprise imaging and data value chain

For both patients and providers, intelligent, interoperable, and open workflow solutions will make all the difference.

Scientists have created synthetic mouse embryos with developed brains

The stem-cell-derived embryos could shed new light on the earliest stages of human pregnancy.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.