Artificial intelligence is tracking the vile comments hurled at female Alberta politicians during the election campaign.
“One of the major barriers that women face when they're thinking of running for office, especially lately, is the abuse they receive online,” explained ParityYEG co-founder Lana Cuthbert.
The bot, sponsored by Edmonton non-profit ParityYEG, tracks every tweet mentioning a woman in the election race.
For every attack tweet, the bot sends out a positive post. It also collects data about the nature of the offensive tweets.
One of the comments the bot caught reads: "Go back to your stupid lefty f*** group and amaze them with your loud mouth and your slogans, you stupid, ill-educated... dumba** know-it-all leg idiot. You know f*** all and deep in your stupid head you know this."
“We then process that tweet and try to calculate 16 features. Those features are like how offensive it is, if there's a threat, the sentiment of it,” said Cuthbert’s colleague, University of Alberta PhD candidate Kory Mathewson.
Alberta Party Edmonton-Gold Bar candidate Diana Ly, an occasional victim of online bullying, called the idea innovative.
“’Why would we vote for her? She's a complete idiot,’” Ly recalled reading in her comments. “To me, that was hurtful because it came from another female.”
According to Amnesty International, eight per cent of tweets directed at women in politics are abusive.
“It’s alarming. I know it’s single digits, but in my mind, it should be zero per cent. My question is why is that happening?” she asked.
“And why, in the twenty-first century, we’re still having these conversations where it’s not based on the competency, or the qualifications of the person, but it’s so focused on something that the person has no control over.”
The team hopes to learn enough in Alberta’s provincial election to help women candidates who run in the federal election in October.
With files from Regan Hasegawa