Trolls and Online Racists Have Started Speaking in Code

One of the easiest ways to combat abuse online is to create parameters which look out for specific words. If a particular abusive, racist or otherwise offensive term can be flagged, people will stop using it. The problem with that is that you can remove the word, but retain the intent. Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and others are all rife with racism, and the perpetrators tend to use vague terms and implicit language in order to avoid getting flagged.

That obviously isn't enough for some people, though, as a few days ago someone tweeted a list of all the terms. They include Google, Skype, Yahoo, Bing, skittle, butterfly and car salesman, and no, I'm not going to directly repeat what any of them mean, you can see the full list here.

Some of them stem directly from past stories, like using 'Google' as a derogatory term for black people, which stems from 4Chan's 'Operation Google', an attempt to trick Google's Jigsaw filtration AI system into flagging the name of the company as a racist slur. Similarly, the use of 'skittle' to describe Muslims or Arabs calls back to the 'poisoned skittle' tweet posted recently by Donald Trump Jr, comparing Syrian refugees to sweets.

While there is no direct link between the tweets using these terms and Trump's support network, he is mentioned in some of them. Sadly, cracking down on racist language is only a small, largely ineffectual part of the fight against online abuse.

Context and intent are malleable, rather than being tied to only certain words, so even if you stopped people using code, they would find other ways to expel their bile. The fact of the matter is that in order to prevent online abuse, you have to look at the people doling it out, not the terms they use.

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