Machine learning fosters civil discourse
Online interactions, especially on social media platforms and discussion forums, frequently degrade into toxicity, a phenomenon that has become increasingly prevalent in the digital age. The anonymity or perceived distance that the internet provides can embolden individuals to express themselves more aggressively or thoughtlessly than they might in face-to-face interactions. This detachment often leads to reduced empathy, making it easier for users to dismiss or attack differing opinions without considering the person behind the screen. Additionally, the instant gratification of likes, shares, or supportive comments can inadvertently incentivize and reinforce extreme or provocative statements. The result is an escalating cycle of negativity, where each interaction becomes a potential flashpoint, turning platforms that were designed for connection and discussion into arenas of conflict and divisiveness.
Announced October 5, 2023, researchers from BYU and Duke conducted an experiment using AI to improve online conversation quality. They had participants with opposing views chat about a polarizing topic. One user would receive periodic suggestions from an AI to rephrase their messages more politely. Participants could accept or ignore the suggestions. Over 1,500 people participated, accepting over 2,700 AI rephrasings. The results showed improved conversation quality when AI suggestions were used. Participants felt more heard and were more willing to listen to the other side.
The AI didn't alter conversation content, only the tone. This demonstrates AI's potential for fostering constructive online interactions, unlike risky persuasive AI. The method is scalable across platforms, unlike moderated training. If implemented broadly, AI could transform toxic online culture into empathetic discourse.
BYU professor David Wingate led the study. He hopes BYU students will build similar pro-social AI applications, establishing BYU as a leader in ethical machine learning. With AI's help, the internet's information could be wielded positively. The research shows AI thoughtfully applied can shape a kinder online world.
Webdesk AI News : AI Improves Social Conversations, October 5, 2023