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Q&A: Why cultural nuance matters in the fight against online extreme speech

Pining down causality between online extreme speech and offline violence is very difficult, says Prof. Udupa but you can clearly identify trends and correlations. Image credit - LMU Munich

A new project - AI4Dignity - fighting against online verbal violence

Artificial intelligence (AI) used by governments and the corporate sector to detect and extinguish online extreme speech often misses important cultural nuance, but bringing in independent factcheckers as intermediaries could help step up the fight against online vitriol, according to Sahana Udupa, professor of media anthropology at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, Germany.

Factcheckers who operate independently of large media corporations or social media companies can shape and use AI to go beyond keywords to help locate context-specific patterns, according to Prof. Udupa. This is because they are trained to pick up disinformation — and extreme speech is a very close cousin of that, she says.

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9 Quotes by the Inventor of the World Wide Web

Sir Tim arriving at the Guildhall to receive the Honorary Freedom of the City of London. Photo credit: Paul Clarke; under CC BY-SA 4.0

Tim Berners-Lee - the Father of the Internet as we know it today

"We need diversity of thought in the world to face the new challenges."


"Data is a precious thing and will last longer than the systems themselves."


"You affect the world by what you browse."

"The Web as I envisaged it, we have not seen it yet. The future is still so much bigger than the past."


"We can't blame the technology when we make mistakes."


"The original idea of the web was that it should be a collaborative space where you can communicate through sharing information."

"Anyone who has lost track of time when using a computer knows the propensity to dream, the urge to make dreams come true and the tendency to miss lunch."


"I hope we will use the Net to cross barriers and connect cultures."


"Customers need to be given control of their own data-not being tied into a certain manufacturer so that when there are problems they are always obliged to go back to them."

Photo credit: unsplash.com by Denny Muller
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The Age of Internet or the Online Man

Photo credit: unsplash.com by Domenico Loia

"The Global Village"

As Marshall McLuhan predicted almost 60 years ago, we are already living in unprecedented ages of worldwide informational interconnection. Nowadays, we can hardly imagine going out without our smartphone, using old type mobile phones, let alone a home without a Wi-Fi network. Matter of fact, it became the most important service that people are asking for when choosing a hotel, hostel, or a location to sleep. As though without it, we can't really enjoy our vacation. More and more people are spending most of their time online while not using the internet is seen as some kind of abstinence. All that is more than understandable considering the unarguable advantages and comforts that the internet endowed to us. We can literally communicate with the speed of light and of course, there are innumerable other benefits. But we are seldom questioning the possible repercussions upon our psyche and the natural functioning of our brain, the faculty of memory, or sleep. Is it really the same to have a chat through some social media as to engage in a real conversation? Do we still hold the border between our Instagram or Facebook profile and our persona? The line separating real and virtual is becoming thin and yet more thinner. What consequences are waiting for us as a kind, which is surely and inevitably transforming into a digital species? For now, we can only guess.

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Happy Birthday, Internet!

Image credit: Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

On this date, 52 years ago…

On the 7th of April, 1969, the first "request for comments," the so-called RFC documents, was published. This event set the scene for the appearance of the internet. It is considered a symbolic birth of the net for the reason that RFC documents opened the doors for researches, proposals, and different approaches, which often applied to the later internet technology. The engineers were now able to publicly kick around and generate new ideas for the future development of the net.

One interesting aspect of the RFC is that a unique serial number is issued for each document. An individual paper cannot be overwritten; rather, updates or corrections are submitted on a separate RFC. The result is an ongoing historical record of the evolution of internet standards.

As it usually happens with an event of such a great historical impact, there is another pretender for the birth date of the net – 1st of January, 1983. It was the day when the National Science Foundation's university network backbone became fully operational and it is also considered a forerunner of the World Wide Web.


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