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Google AI Communications Spam

Is Google's Comment Filtering Tool 'Vanishing' Legitimate Comments? (vortex.com) 101

Slashdot reader Lauren Weinstein writes: Google has announced (with considerable fanfare) public access to their new "Perspective" comment filtering system API, which uses Google's machine learning/AI system to determine which comments on a site shouldn't be displayed due to perceived high spam/toxicity scores. It's a fascinating effort. And if you run a website that supports comments, I urge you not to put this Google service into production, at least for now.

The bottom line is that I view Google's spam detection systems as currently too prone to false positives -- thereby enabling a form of algorithm-driven "censorship" (for lack of a better word in this specific context) -- especially by "lazy" sites that might accept Google's determinations of comment scoring as gospel... as someone who deals with significant numbers of comments filtered by Google every day -- I have nearly 400K followers on Google Plus -- I can tell you with considerable confidence that the problem isn't "spam" comments that are being missed, it's completely legitimate non-spam, non-toxic comments that are inappropriately marked as spam and hidden by Google.

Lauren is also collecting noteworthy experiences for a white paper about "the perceived overall state of Google (and its parent corporation Alphabet, Inc.)" to better understand how internet companies are now impacting our lives in unanticipated ways. He's inviting people to share their recent experiences with "specific Google services (including everything from Search to Gmail to YouTube and beyond), accounts, privacy, security, interactions, legal or copyright issues -- essentially anything positive, negative, or neutral that you are free to impart to me, that you believe might be of interest."
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Is Google's Comment Filtering Tool 'Vanishing' Legitimate Comments?

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  • Really? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Webs 101 ( 798265 ) on Sunday February 26, 2017 @07:41PM (#53935517) Homepage
    There are 400,000 users of Google+?
    • There are 400,000 users of Google+?

      It's still a better platform for following people you don't know than Facebook is. For one, it shows you all posts by someone (or by some circle) by default.

  • automated (Score:5, Funny)

    by Lehk228 ( 705449 ) on Sunday February 26, 2017 @08:23PM (#53935643) Journal
    so now we are automating social justice? what are the college students going to do with their humanities degrees?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      Be careful with this one. There are exactly zero examples in TFA, no evidence of what is being claimed. It's just an anecdote at this point.

      Any kind of filter will never be 100% perfect. That's just the nature of filters. Occasionally the odd bit of spam will get through, the odd legit message will be marked as spam. That doesn't mean they are not useful. We should wait for actual data before making a judgement here.

      Ultimately it's up to the individual. If you ant full uncensored speech then turn off your s

  • When easy good substitutes exist, like hide, ignore, blacklists, eliminate, filter etc, why take the trouble to tansitivize vanish? If you want to be cute and curry favor with old unix coots ask dramatically, "Is Google Comment Filtering tool grep -v ing legitimate comments?"
  • by darkain ( 749283 ) on Sunday February 26, 2017 @08:43PM (#53935713) Homepage

    Slashdot's Meta-Moderation is by no means perfect, but it is a hell of a lot better than 99% of the web sites out there, especially anything that has automated moderation. Don't feel like dealing with assholes? Then don't browse at -1. Odds are someone else with karma has already come along and moderated the assholes into oblivion.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      No, they moderated someone they disagree with into oblivion. Want to read real comments (including all the garbage) - browse at -1 to see what people are actually saying, not what the current no-life karma whores deem accepted in the current agenda/groupthink.

      I only post AC on slashdot. Why? Because I cannot be banned by other users.I registered to comment once. I made several simple non-spam posts of my opinions on some windows tech topic, and was promptly banned from posting - by other users! I guess they

      • by Anonymous Coward

        It's worse. I once was modded down over and over again by the same user, apparently taking aim at me. Where did he get all the mod power from? So I asked and was answered by CmdrTaco himself. They have super users with endless mod points. If they don't like you, they mod your opinion away.

      • The trolls and flamebait all get moderated down to -1. But so do unpopular opinions. So it is far from a perfect system. Want to guarantee yourself a -1, post something good about Windows/10!
  • A search engine that still searches the internet?
    Less effort on creating Hero Brigades and more effort on been a search engine?
    If a US search engine wants to be a safe SJW protected service with lots of ads, what would the results look like?
    The rest of the internet can create a real search engine that finds results. Not having SJW approval to show results would make for some fun marketing.
    The internet is not a problem. SJW filtering of the internet is showing less results and users expect a working
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      My think my internal spam filter just got tripped.

      Could you re-phrase that in coherent sentence/paragraph structure? Or was that a deliberate attempt at "conversational hypnosis" Illuminati mind control?

      • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
        AC why try and filter the vast internet with all the comments about illegal migrants, blasphemy, news results about Tiananmen square and 1989?
        Why not just create a safe space with an internet list? All the Hero Brigades SJW teams could add the few news sites they think are politically and culturally appropriate.

        Focus on the ability to build a new internet. Why try and hold back all the sites that are not inclusive in real time?
        Think of looking up authors or composers.
        With a SJW list of approved arts
        • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

          AC why try and filter the vast internet with all the comments about illegal migrants, blasphemy, news results about Tiananmen square and 1989?
          Why not just create a safe space with an internet list? All the Hero Brigades SJW teams could add the few news sites they think are politically and culturally appropriate.

          Wait... You think that the Chinese government are SJWs? Or that people who support social justice also support Chinese government censorship of Tiananmen square?

          If that acronym ever had any meaning, it's been utterly lost now. More so than ever, it's just a generic catch-all term for whoever you happen to be railing against at that moment.

        • Just go back to the days of AOL and Compuserve. If their list of sites is filtered for safe stuff, then you just stick there and you see only that!
          • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
            Think of what the net would have been if SJW would have been able to shape it from the early 1990's on :)
      • by skids ( 119237 )

        I'm surprised he got by the lzw filter after using "SJW" so much.

  • Thing about spam (Score:5, Interesting)

    by buss_error ( 142273 ) on Sunday February 26, 2017 @09:06PM (#53935811) Homepage Journal
    The thing about spam is that for as long as I can remember (at least back to 1997) people have insisted upon a technical solution for spam. The issue is that spam is not a technical problem. It's a human problem. Like any other problem/response cycle, if you are solving for the wrong issue, don't be shocked if the solution isn't as bad or worse than the problem. Another issue, not directly on point, is Google Email and anti-spam. I know of several organizations that have completely shut down their email infrastructure in favor of Google email services. An unaddressed problem is that these organizations have also laid off their email folks since "Google takes care of it all" so subtle and not so subtle issues often go not simply unaddressed, but unknown to the organization. The result has been a high rate of false positives, including senders without DKIM. I once got into a argument with John Lavine about DKIM, in which he got pretty passionate. I argue that DKIM is:

    1. Needlessly opaque

    2. Prone to abuse from over zealous admins

    3. Google does it wrong (Checking the header chain all the way back instead of the last system the recipient does not run)

    4. Breaks email standards

    5. Doesn't solve any issue that SPF does not solve more directly, without possible abuse, and much more simply, requires far fewer CPU resources and skill, and does not break email standards in the process.
    I'm told that "I'm too stupid" to know how it works and "I should get out of computers since you obviously are too stupid to know your f'ing job!" (both quotes from right here on slash dot). I won't try to prove otherwise, but one question I've asked over and over again is how DKIM, checked back further than the last untrusted relay, does not break email standards for list or forwarded mail. SPF won't break those, DKIM will, every time.

    So getting back to our muttons, I'm not surprised that Google's spam engine (or anyone's, for that matter) has a high false positive rate, or a lower than desired true positive rate. That issue is simple - they are attempting to solve a problem with technology that isn't technical in nature. Stop using a hammer to try to screw in a light bulb. Doesn't work well.

    • by joboss ( 4453961 )
      I find that Google is quite good at separating the wheat from the chaff at least for my use case. However I find there are some good practices to avoid receiving large amounts of spam.

      Your signature is contradictory. Spam filters are a necessary evil. To change conditions such that the necessity no longer exists would take tyrannical action.

      There's definitely a lot of debate about how spam filters should be implemented and all of the various other ways to mitigate it out there.

      Problem solving. It's
    • The issue is that spam is not a technical problem. It's a human problem.

      However, since I can't wave a magic wand and make billions of people into good responsible human beings, I look for a technological solution that I can install for myself.

  • Automated censoring of "toxic" content has lots of false positives? I'm shocked, shocked I say.

    So hey, I've been working on a crayola quip that I can't quite nail. Something to the tune of "I've seen crayons more toxic than that."

    • Automated censoring of "toxic" content has lots of false positives? I'm shocked, shocked I say.

      With any signal detection system the question of whether it is more vital to avoid Type I or Type II errors needs to be addressed. For example in criminal justice the consequences of falsely rebutting the presumption of innocence are so high that Blackstone was led to observe it was "better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer."

      Just like any other commenter, I regard the comment I'm here

    • You've only heard of it now? Ever hear of the Scunthorpe problem (observe letters 2-5)? Breast cancer survivor support groups being banned because of too many references to female breasts? There have been unsophisticated content filters with numerous false positives for a long time now.

  • The internet will have a really great time with you again, and make you block the stupidiest things.

  • I recently tried to post a (long) comment on Slashdot, and the filter prevented me from doing so; it seemed to particularly take issue with one section that talked about guns. I guess I used too many 'graylist' words too many times in my post, or something. Regardless, it wasn't spam, or offensive, and it took me a while to figure out how to split it into two posts successfully.

  • Step 1. Allow down-voting.
    That is all.

  • How is that even a surprise? This is not a spam filtering tool that might catch a few wrong messages. This is explicitly advertised to perform censorship by getting rid of messages that might count as harassment or toxic. Since both of those are highly subjective, it will of course get rid of a lot valid messages, as that's it's job, that is what it was build for. If you want to automate your censorship, don't be surprise when your censorship happens automatically.

    I find it ridiculous how much effort is spe

  • Onward towards the goal of excluding all but the most anodyne, boring, middle-of-the-road mush!

  • Reddit has a spam filter that silently removes comments and its operation is completely mysterious. It can be tied in with if users report comments as spam. If you report a comment you don't like as spam rather than some other rule and mods enforce the rules according to personal believe and political ideology then it can sway the spam filters towards that in theory. Types of abuse can also be reported as spam even though it's not spam in the normal commercial sense.

    With business emails and things you ca
  • My youtube channel has over 24,000 subs and gets about a million views per month and whenever I look at the hundred or so spam comments at any given time, I'd say 95% or more are not spam. It also lets a TON of malicious spam through.
  • I can't really criticize Weinstein, since no doubt there's some nonzero number of idiot admins who are using the Perspective API to filter comments, or are considering doing so.

    But the Jigsaw blog post releasing the thing says that 1) it's in alpha, 2) it has both poor precision (too many false positives) and poor recall (misses many "forms", as they like to put it), and 3) it's not to be used in production. What's more, they tell you how it works - logistic regression on a supervised-learning model built f

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