Hate speech often appears alongside player toxicity in online gaming, and one organization seeks to develop the tools necessary to identify evolving and often difficult to spot language. Hatebase is an organization based in Canada that offers “hate speech as a service,” which refers to an ongoing and expanding repository of multilingual hate speech data, including nearly 100 languages across over 180 countries, and could be an essential part of improving the online player experience towards one of inclusivity, and away from online abuse.
Hatebase is not interested in identifying and reducing hate speech exclusively in online gaming, but with all aspects of the expanding online world. The organization claims to offer a level of expertise that most companies cannot reach themselves, focusing on three goals: reducing incidents of hate speech through monitoring, lessening the acceptability of hate speech, and preventing violence which is predicated by hate speech.
Speaking to TheGamer, Jennifer Nguyen from Hatebase explained that most companies, even large social networks, have a difficult time finding and replicating the evolving forms of hate speech,
“The challenge for online communities is that hate speech is extremely hard to identify, monitor, and quarantine, because 1) different people have different perspectives on hate speech (e.g. a word which would be considered benign in one context, could be seen as hateful in another), and 2) users are getting increasingly savvy about getting discriminatory content past rudimentary content filters, something we've seen a lot with the white nationalist movement.”
In online gaming, combating toxicity and hate speech is no simple matter, and game developers often speak about the importance of working towards improving their tools to do so. Recently here at TheGamer, we discussed how Phil Spencer, vice-president of Gaming at Microsoft, has become increasingly vocal about bringing inclusivity to gaming and its users.
In a blog post titled, “Video Games: A unifying force for the world,” from May of this year, Spencer stated that this effort would aim to create safe, inclusive gaming environments for all users. To do to so, hate speech, bigotry, and misogyny would need to be dealt with in more effective ways. Spencer went to state that the Xbox Safety team works hard towards this goal. Spencer’s goals are admirable and a great example for others to follow, but few organizations have the resources that Microsoft does.
This is where Hatebase can shine and why it and similar projects should be a focus for continued development in the future. Smaller organizations that wish to leverage the powerful tools created by Hatebase can do so for a monthly licensing fee, while other organizations, like non-profits, members of academia, and community groups may access the license for free. Nguyen goes on to state, “Our goal is to help online communities better handle this problem and send less vitriolic content to human moderators.”
Through their website, one can see exactly how the work is done, and examples of their work. As hate speech is varied and language evolves with slang at a fast pace, it can be difficult for traditional research to locate all forms of hate speech. Hatebase uses what they describe as a natural language engine, Hatebrain, to perform linguistic analysis on public conversations. The data is then made available through the web interface.
This means that unlike traditional research in hate speech, which can be static and frozen in the time that an investigation was done, Hatebase is ever-evolving its database with more current discussions. It is not made clear from where these conversations are taken, and it would be useful to know where exactly data is being scraped for analysis.
Ultimately, Hatebase looks to be a great first step towards a long-term goal of eliminating hate speech online, to whatever maximum extent is possible on such a sprawling, ever-evolving medium of communication. With regards to implementing similar tools in online gaming, it would be fascinating to see a larger organization like Microsoft collaborate with Hatebase, combining the best of their tools towards a like-minded goal.
For those who would like to learn more or even commit their efforts to the project, they can click here to join the Citizen Linguist Lab at Hatebase.