FireAnt - The Software That Can Hunt Down Online Abusers

travelblog.org
Even if you've never been a direct victim of online abuse, you can barely use the internet now without at least brushing against it. You might see it in the comments section of a video or article, or a heated exchange on Twitter, but it's always there, like a bad smell. One of the biggest issues with abusive behaviour online is that it's such a vague definition that it can hard to isolate or identify.

This is what FireAnt aims to combat. Fitted to work with any online source code, from Facebook to Google+ and beyond, it can block out millions of messages and posts to ferret out very specific types of content which point to abuse, threat or even terrorist activity. In this sense, the tool could be massively helpful to investigators in the future.

The tool was created collaboratively by groups from Lancaster University in the UK and Waseda University in Japan. It was originally developed to work only with Twitter, but has since been expanded to work with almost anything. It basically allows you to sift through enormous amounts of data in search of very specific parameters, like say tweets which contain the word 'America', sent out at night, from users who post a lot of content about guns.

Through this method, the data can be judged in terms of intent and severity, making it far easier to pinpoint online behaviour when it starts becoming a serious issue. Said information can then easily be presented in a readable, easy-to-understand way. How that data is used is up to the people using the software, but this could lead to big changes in the way online abuse is dealt with, if it takes off.

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