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Harassment Manager: Here’s how Google wants to curb online abuse on Twitter

Harassment Manager will help users document, hide and block the malicious and vulgar tweets they receive.

Google’s Jigsaw unit has announced a new open source tool called Harassment Manager for users, especially journalists, to curb online abuse targeted at them on Twitter. This comes after a recent research from Jigsaw revealed that women in general, and female journalists in particular are most at risk of online abuse. Over 70 per cent of female journalists receive threats and harassment online, and more than 40 per cent of those female journalists stopped reporting a story as a result.

Harassment Manager is a computer software linked with Twitter’s API that will help users document, hide and block the malicious and vulgar tweets they receive, according to Jigsaw, which is owned by Alphabet Inc.’s Google. The open source tool will allow users to review, sort, and export harmful comments with trusted parties, as well as mute or block perpetrators and hide replies to tweets.

To set up the customised tool you need the Twitter API to fetch Twitter data, Google Sheets API for exporting data to Sheets, Perspective API to identify “toxic” comments and Firebase for authentication and data storage. Jigsaw’s Perspective API uses machine learning to identify “toxic” language.

According to Google, toxicity is defined as language that is rude, disrespectful or likely to make someone leave a conversation.

Users using the Harassment Manager will also have the option to compile reports of the harassment to share with their employers, law enforcement or others, and can even hide comments and block users.

“We want to make sure everyone on Twitter has the tools they need to take control of their experience on our service. Developer innovation increases the impact of the work our teams are doing to protect the public conversation by building tools that address the specific needs and preferences of people around the globe. This collaboration with Jigsaw enables NGOs and other ecosystem partners to leverage the Twitter API to build valuable tools for the communities they serve,”said Arielle Schwartz, Director of Business Development for Twitter’s Developer Platform.

Currently, the tool will be available for use on Twitter by journalists who work with the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Jigsaw in a press release noted that its team worked with journalists and activists with large Twitter presences throughout the whole development cycle to build Harassment Manager, using the Twitter API.

The effort also involved collaborations with several NGOs in the journalism and human rights space, including Article 19, Code for Africa, European Women’s Lobby, Feminist Internet, Glitch, the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ), Online SOS, Paradigm Initiative, PEN America, Right To Be (formerly Hollaback!), and others, to incorporate their perspectives regarding their community’s needs.


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