Inventing language to avoid algorithmic censorship

Platforms like Tiktok, Twitch and Instagram use algorithmic filters to automatically block certain posts on the basis of the language they use. The Washington Post shows how this has created ‘algospeak’, a whole new vocabulary. So instead of ‘dead’ users write ‘unalive’, they use ‘SA’ instead of ‘sexual assault’, and write ‘spicy eggplant’ rather than ‘vibrator’.

The algorithmic filters don’t take context into account. Unfortunately, this makes it hard to address racial oppression:

“You have to say ‘saltines’ when you’re literally talking about crackers now,” said Lodane Erisian, a community manager for Twitch creators. […] Black and trans users, and those from other marginalized communities, often use algospeak to discuss the oppression they face, swapping out words for “white” or “racist.” Some are too nervous to utter the word “white” at all and simply hold their palm toward the camera to signify White people.

Users of these platforms are lobbying for more transparency about how the filters work, but everybody is very aware that this problem can’t truly be solved within the current Big Tech business models.

See: Internet ‘algospeak’ is changing our language in real time, from ‘nip nops’ to ‘le dollar bean’ at The Washington Post.

Images from The Washington Post and Know Your Meme respectively.

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