Hate speech, misinformation, bigotry – internet users are well aware of the slippery slope of online speech. In years that contain invasions or pandemics – or both – it can be easy for users to stumble upon the toxicity that has plagued internet forums and comment sections for decades. Israel’s OpenWeb – formerly Spot.IM – is on a mission to change that. The company, which was founded in 2012 by Nadav Shoval and Roee Goldberg, uses AI and machine learning to help moderate editor comment sections to ensure healthy speech. It’s not an easy task when the world watches the war unfold in real time and some people dispute the effects of vaccinations.
“I wanted to create a healthy way for people to connect online,” said Nadav Shoval, co-founder and CEO of OpenWeb, describing how he started the company. “I felt like the internet I was exposed to in the 1990s was a lot healthier than the internet we’re all exposed to right now. I think it was a lot more civil, almost naive d in a way. Shoval couldn’t have predicted how the internet would change in the 10 years since the company was founded. Online conversations now take place in forums, comment sections and of course on social media platforms, but too easily bring out the worst in people when they are masked in anonymity or shielded by the barrier of a black mirror Increasingly, users are exposed to fake speech or abusive that can do anything from offend individuals to spreading lies about minority groups.Publishers like AOL, Yahoo!, Huffpost, and IGN are adopting the OpenWeb platform to deliver a “safety net” for content published online. Editors can add guidelines and adjust them, but if they don’t agree with the basics of the company’s moderation standards, they won’t be able to work with them. OpenWeb monitors overtly offensive speech, but questions arise when they de facto position themselves as gatekeepers to online conversations. Today, OpenWeb moderates the conversations of 100 million Internet users mainly located in the United States. It’s estimated that users spend 35% more time and look at 200% more page views when guided by OpenWeb’s tools – which is a win for everyone.