Nav: Home

Carnegie Mellon leverages AI to give voice to the voiceless

January 13, 2020

PITTSBURGH--Complete the following sentence: Rohingya refugees should go to¬¬¬ --

A. Pakistan.
B. Bangladesh.
C. Hell.

These aren't good choices, but all are sentiments that have been expressed repeatedly on social media. The Rohingyas, who began fleeing Myanamar in 2017 to avoid ethnic cleansing, are ill-equipped to defend themselves from these online attacks, but innovations from Carnegie Mellon University's Language Technologies Institute (LTI) could help counter the hate speech directed at them and other voiceless groups.

The LTI researchers have developed a system that leverages artificial intelligence to rapidly analyze hundreds of thousands of comments on social media and identify the fraction that defend or sympathize with disenfranchised minorities such as the Rohingya community. Human social media moderators, who couldn't possibly manually sift through so many comments, would then have the option to highlight this "help speech" in comment sections.

"Even if there's lots of hateful content, we can still find positive comments," said Ashiqur R. KhudaBukhsh, a post-doctoral researcher in the LTI who conducted the research with alumnus Shriphani Palakodety. Finding and highlighting these positive comments, they suggest, might do as much to make the internet a safer, healthier place as would detecting and eliminating hostile content or banning the trolls responsible.

Left to themselves, the Rohingyas are largely defenseless against online hate speech. Many of them have limited proficiency in global languages such as English, and they have little access to the internet. Most are too busy trying to stay alive to spend much time posting their own content, KhudaBukhsh said.

To find relevant help speech, the researchers used their technique to search more than a quarter of a million comments from YouTube in what they believe is the first AI-focused analysis of the Rohingya refugee crisis. They will present their findings at the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence annual conference, Feb. 7-12, in New York City.

Similarly, in an as-yet unpublished study, they used the technology to search for antiwar "hope speech" among almost a million YouTube comments surrounding the February 2019 Pulwama terror attack in Kashmir, which enflamed the longstanding India-Pakistan dispute over the region.

The ability to analyze such large quantities of text for content and opinion is possible because of recent major improvements in language models, said Jaime Carbonell, LTI director and a co-author on the study. These models learn from examples so they can predict what words are likely to occur in a given sequence and help machines understand what speakers and writers are trying to say.

But the CMU researchers developed a further innovation that made it possible to apply these models to short social media texts in South Asia, he added. Short bits of text, often with spelling and grammar mistakes, are difficult for machines to interpret. It's even harder in South Asian countries, where people may speak several languages and tend to "code switch," combining bits of different languages and even different writing systems in the same statement.

Existing machine learning methods create representations of words, or word embeddings, so that all words with a similar meaning are represented in the same way. This technique makes it possible to compute the proximity of a word to others in a comment or post. To extend this technique to the challenging texts of South Asia, the CMU team obtained new embeddings that revealed language groupings or clusters. This language identification technique worked as well or better than commercially available solutions.

This innovation has become an enabling technology for computational analyses of social media in that region, Carbonell noted.

Samplings of the YouTube comments showed about 10% of the comments were positive. When the researchers used their method to search for help speech in the larger dataset, the results were 88% positive, indicating that the method could substantially reduce the manual effort necessary to find them, KhudaBukhsh said.

"No country is too small to take on refugees," said one text, while another argued "all the countries should take a stand for these people."

But detecting pro-Rohingya texts can be a double-edged sword: some texts can contain language that could be considered hate speech against their alleged persecutors, he added.

Antagonists of the Rohingya are "really kind of like animals not like human beings so that's why they genocide innocent people," said one such text. Though the method reduces manual efforts, comments such as this indicate the continuing need for human judgment and for further research, the scientists concluded.
-end-


Carnegie Mellon University

Related Social Media Articles:

Using social media to understand the vaccine debate in China
Vaccine acceptance is a crucial public health issue, which has been exacerbated by the use of social media to spread content expressing vaccine hesitancy.
Vaccine misinformation and social media
People who rely on social media for information were more likely to be misinformed about vaccines than those who rely on traditional media, according to a study by the Annenberg Public Policy Center.
How social media makes breakups that much worse
Even those who use Facebook features like unfriending, unfollowing, blocking and Take a Break still experience troubling encounters with ex-partners online, a new study shows.
Teens must 'get smart' about social media
New research indicates that social media is leading young adolescent girls and boys down a worrying path towards developing body image issues and eating disorder behaviours - even though they are smartphone savvy.
Social media use and disordered eating in young adolescents
New research published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders suggests that social media, particularly platforms with a strong focus on image posting and viewing, is associated with disordered eating in young adolescents.
STD crowd-diagnosis requests on social media
Online postings seeking information on sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) on the social media website Reddit were analyzed to see how often requests were made for a crowd-diagnosis and whether the requested diagnosis was for a second opinion after seeing a health care professional.
Cynical social media voices can erode trust in news media
Amid rising concerns about low public trust in mainstream media institutions, a Rutgers study found that real-life and online social interactions can strongly influence a person's trust in newspaper, TV and online journalism -- but when it comes to online interactions, cynical views are the most influential.
Social media use by adolescents linked to internalizing behaviors
A new study from researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that adolescents who spend more than three hours a day on social media are more likely to report high levels of internalizing behaviors compared to adolescents who do not use social media at all.
Social media stress can lead to social media addiction
Social network users risk becoming more and more addicted to social media platforms even as they experience stress from their use.
Many post on social media under the influence of drugs -- and regret it
Posting on social media, texting, and appearing in photos while high is prevalent among people who use drugs--and many regret these behaviors, according to a study by the Center for Drug Use and HIV/HCV Research (CDUHR) at NYU College of Global Public Health.
More Social Media News and Social Media Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Teaching For Better Humans 2.0
More than test scores or good grades–what do kids need for the future? This hour, TED speakers explore how to help children grow into better humans, both during and after this time of crisis. Guests include educators Richard Culatta and Liz Kleinrock, psychologist Thomas Curran, and writer Jacqueline Woodson.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#556 The Power of Friendship
It's 2020 and times are tough. Maybe some of us are learning about social distancing the hard way. Maybe we just are all a little anxious. No matter what, we could probably use a friend. But what is a friend, exactly? And why do we need them so much? This week host Bethany Brookshire speaks with Lydia Denworth, author of the new book "Friendship: The Evolution, Biology, and Extraordinary Power of Life's Fundamental Bond". This episode is hosted by Bethany Brookshire, science writer from Science News.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Space
One of the most consistent questions we get at the show is from parents who want to know which episodes are kid-friendly and which aren't. So today, we're releasing a separate feed, Radiolab for Kids. To kick it off, we're rerunning an all-time favorite episode: Space. In the 60's, space exploration was an American obsession. This hour, we chart the path from romance to increasing cynicism. We begin with Ann Druyan, widow of Carl Sagan, with a story about the Voyager expedition, true love, and a golden record that travels through space. And astrophysicist Neil de Grasse Tyson explains the Coepernican Principle, and just how insignificant we are. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.