How Algorithms Can Help Prevent Online Abuse

The internet has become a new home for many people, but it can also be an incredibly toxic place to spend time online. While some use the internet to spread good and happiness, others use it to abuse and harass others in any way they can, regardless of how cruel or illegal this may be. That’s why many companies have turned to algorithms in order to help prevent online abuse from taking place on their platforms, including Facebook and Twitter. In this article, we will take a look at how exactly algorithms are being used to prevent online abuse on social media and other places online today.

What is an Algorithm?

An algorithm is a set of instructions to produce the desired outcome. There are many types of algorithms and they can be used for different purposes. One use for an algorithm is preventing online abuse by taking into account the context of the post, social network, commenter, and commenter’s friends. These algorithms have successfully been able to block 93% of abusive comments across major social media networks including Facebook, YouTube, Reddit, and Twitter. The beauty of these algorithms is that they don’t rely on users manually sifting through negative comments or content – all the work is done by the computer.

Anonymity and its Perils

Although anonymity is often seen as a good thing, it can be used in a more nefarious way. Over half of the US population has witnessed some form of abuse on social media, whether it’s bullying or harassment, both offline and online. This creates an increasingly hostile environment in which anything can be said and attacked on, and there is no consequence for the perpetrators. Some platforms are working to reverse this trend by using algorithms that prevent online abuse before it happens. These types of pre-emptive programs use software to scan conversations and flag potential threats or inappropriate messages to help protect those who have been targets of similar behaviors in the past.

The Harmful Effects of Anonymity

There are many cases of bullying, stalking, and other types of harassment that have been plaguily allowed to continue because of the anonymity provided by the internet. Now, however, this might change as algorithms are becoming increasingly more intelligent in helping to identify harmful behavior and intervening before it can do too much damage. In 2016 an algorithm was introduced on Twitter that helps identify tweets containing words commonly found in abusive language. This is only a small example of how algorithms are going to be utilized in the future to help deal with online abuse.

Combatting the Harm Anonymous Behavior Causes

Recently, there has been a lot of talk about anonymous behavior on the internet and the many ways it can cause harm. On social media platforms, for example, an ‘anonymous’ person could post something about someone else’s appearance or share personal information that leaves the other person feeling degraded and upset. Abusive behavior has also been found to be much more common when an individual can hide behind their computer screen rather than face their victim. With technology improving all the time, we believe that algorithms may offer a possible solution to prevent online abuse.


With all the horror stories of online abuse, you may be tempted to disengage with social media altogether. We don’t recommend it. If we hide, they win. The most important thing is to have our guard up and keep changing the settings on your Facebook and other accounts to help prevent future abuse – such as locking out people who were already abusive or encouraging new friends-of-friends requests. Find the settings that work for you and lock them in place. Change passwords often, even if that means writing them down and storing them in a safe place, so cybercriminals can’t get their hands on your data. Educate yourself about reporting abuses through tools offered by social media sites like Twitter’s report abuse button or Instagram’s see something?

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