UAlbany professors say teaching Instagram to recognize cyberbullying will take time

July 18, 2019 08:02 PM

Cyberbullies beware: Instagram is looking to use artificial intelligence to stop people from using their platform to bully others, but it's going to take a lot of time and cash to get there.

Software engineers will have to teach a machine to recognize bullying in millions of text bodies, photos and videos being posted in real time.

"You can build something very small in the beginning and then start adding and adding as you learn more," said Daphney Zois, an assistant professor of computer engineering at University at Albany.

Zois said developers need to consider factors like slang, context and emoji use when creating the AI software.

"I can write a text, a message that's full of bad words but that does not mean that I'm bullying somebody right?" Zois said. "So how can we give a machine intelligence to figure something out that's really hard?"

Harris Chelmis is an assistant professor of computer science at UAlbany. Chelmis said the software will cost tens of millions to create and amend.

"It's not a one-time one time kind of solution," he said. "You need to maintain it over the years and build up on it and put more features into it make it more accurate as time passes by and so on."

Instagram is looking to roll out two features this year: one is comment warning. When the software detects a comment that could be considered bullying, it asks the user, "Are you sure you want to post this?" in the hope of deterring them.

The second is called Restrict. Restrict allows users to limit a bully's ability to interact with them rather than block them entirely. Users can still view comments before they're posted. They can approve, delete or leave them pending so that only the bully can see them.

UAlbany senior Kiyah Owens said she deleted social media last year because it became too. She said she hopes these measures work.

"It's a good idea but we'd have to see the pros and cons to it," Owens said. "Not really sure how it's going to play out but I would hope that it's beneficial to anybody."

Nicole Dodrill is a forensic science major at UAlbany. She hopes to see these measures implemented on other platforms, too.

"I definitely think it should be all social media but Instagram definitely the most, because I feel like pictures more bullying goes on, but I agree like Twitter definitely," Dodrill said.


Emily Burkhard

Copyright 2019 WNYT-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved