Automatic Filtering of Online Stupidity

Logo of the StupidFilter projectIf you surf the web to any extent, you’ve inevitably noticed how the bottomless pit that is human stupidity presents itself there. Well, let’s remedy that with a bit of artificial intelligence. The StupidFilter is an absolutely brilliant project that aims to create an open-source filtering mechanism for stupid comments online.

The solution we’re creating is simple: an open-source filter software that can detect rampant stupidity in written English. This will be accomplished with weighted Bayesian or similar analysis and some rules-based processing, similar to spam detection engines. The primary challenge inherent in our task is that stupidity is not a binary distinction, but rather a matter of degree. To this end, we’re collecting a ranked corpus of stupid text, gleaned from user comments on public websites and ranked on a five-point scale. [StupidFilter About page]

So basically, you’ll be able to set the bar for how stupid or naive comments can sound. (I’m guessing bar-one will be YouTubian-like “ur fkn asshat! LOLZ!!!PO!!OP1!”). In a CNNmoney interview with the project’s leader, Gabriel Ortiz, a basic use-case scenario is described: “If cnnmoney had the filter installed on its servers, it would intercept the comment just before it was published and flash a little alert at the author that reads: “This comment is more or less unintelligible. Please try to restate it.“.

It sounds pretty elegant and I look forward to seeing how well it works. The project is in a design and analysis phase and an alpha release is planned for December. The core code is intended to be integrateable into standard content management platforms, but additionally they intend to release WordPress and Firefox plugins which will probably arrive at a later date. If all goes as planned and described, you can be fairly certain the plugin will be put to the test here on Think Artificial (it’s only appropriate, considering the blog’s focus!).

Be sure to check out their FAQ, it’s pretty funny — including golden answers such as this one:

Q: Do you really expect to be able to detect and filter anything that’s conceivably stupid?
A: No, of course not. You’d need real AI for that, and beyond a certain point it’s simply subjective; after all, a sufficiently advanced AI would probably filter out the whole of human discourse, which isn’t the idea.

As mentioned in the description I quoted from their about page, a method of training the engine to recognize stupid comments is ranking them on a scale from 1-5. They pull comments from YouTube and then have human moderators rank stupidity. If you want to help speed the project along, you can apply to become a moderator of the stupidity corpus.

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14 Comments, Comment or Ping

  1. Of course if you implement this filter on this website your readership will be duty bound to test it ;-)

    An interesting alternate problem would be the Turing test for Youtube comments. Much easier than the traditional Turing test.

  2. How awesome it will be to be able to categorically analyze something as “stupid.” There are no bounds with this thing. ;)

  3. Hrafn

    @Daniel
    Definitely, we’ll be putting that sucker to the test! Turing test for YouTube comments — chuckles. Good idea ;)

    @Esther
    Definitely interesting to see how the project evolves!

  4. puttputt

    Make one for the president of the United State. Stupid comments on the web does not start WW3.

  5. Casey

    Is filtering out stupid language just one step away from filtering out stupid ideas? Or are they one and the same? Hmmm…not sure I’m on board with this one. I’d hate to see the Internet turn into a monolithic structure where the only viewpoints allowed are determined by an algorithm.

  6. AttemptingReason

    @Casey – it’s not the same thing. The stupidfilter would detect grammatical structures and spelling, not content. You could say “It is clear to see that the moon is made entirely of glowing Styrofoam.” and get through the filter, but if you said “i lurvd ur awsum ide!!!1 weall shud care moar abut politicz!!!” you would be filtered.

  7. Oh, I just LOVE the idea. =)

  8. @PuttPutt [...] Stupid comments on the web does not start WW3.

    You’re right, stupid comments on the web will start World War 4.

    @Casey
    AttemptingReason is right on the money. But you could say that the internet is already determined by an “algorithm” — the emergent rules of human actions ;)

    @Eli
    Let’s hope they release something soon, it’ll go up for testing on Think Artificial, that’s for sure!

  9. crystal report

    Nothing new in this idea. Today we have a lot of plugins for WP for spam fighting, just another one…

  10. How interesting, I just wonder how they’re going to do it – it is going to take a lot of stupid detectors. But I guess it has been figured out already.

  11. j

    lol!! WTF!! OMFG!

  12. andy5

    So basically, you

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