An $800,000 grant has been awarded to the University to create a social network powered hate speech detecting system
Cardiff University has been granted $800,000 by the US Department of Justice to develop a system to detect real-time predictions of hate crime using Twitter data.
In a cross Atlantic partnership, researchers from Cardiff University’s Social Data Science Lab will be using Los Angeles as a test area for they study on how social media can be used to create predictive policing models to tackle hate crime;
The University noted that this is the first time such data has been used in the US to to tackle such crimes.
Cardiff University is watching you
Over the next three years, the team of researchers will pour over Twitter data and cross-reference it with reported hate crimes in the LA area to spot trends that facilitate the creation of markers or signatures which could identify if, where and when a potential hate crime could take place, allowing law enforcement to pre-emptively intervene.
Hate crime, which is defined as a prejudice-motivated crime often targeted at a victim due to his or her sex, ethnicity, religion or affiliation with a social or cultural group, is a problem in both the US and UK.
The US Bureau of Justice Statistic noted that in 2012 293,800 incidents of nonfatal violent and property hate crime occurred in the US, while in the UK data shows there were 52,528 hate crimes recorded by the police in England and Wales between 2014 and 2015.
As such, Cardiff University said social media data can be used to tackle these crimes, as precious research by the Social Data Science Lab has found that Twitter data can be used to identify hot spots of hate crime, particularly in places where hate speech has occurred but no hate crimes were reported due to fear of repercussions.
“Developing a better understanding of hateful sentiments online and their relationship with crime on the streets could push law enforcement to better identify, report and address hate crimes that are occurring offline,” said Professor Matt Williams, from the University’s School of Social Science.
“The insights provided by our work will help US localities to design policies to address specific hate crime issues unique to their jurisdiction and allow service providers to tailor their services to the needs of victims, especially if those victims are members of an emerging category of hate crime targets.”
Some may fear there is a slightly Orwellian esque ‘Big Brother’ feel to being monitored as assessed on what they post on social media, given it is a melting pot of opinions, knee-jerk reactions, whimsy and ironic humour; what one user may post as a joke may get lost in the often tone-deaf chambers of social networks and be seen as offensive, threatening or prejudice.
However, police monitoring of Twitter is nothing new, with Scotland’s Police force openly declaring they are monitoring social media sites for illegal and offensive posts, though in a twist of fate some Twitter users soundly mocked the police for revealing its intentions.
The police have also been vocal in how social networking sites help police, with the London Met’s anti-terror chief slamming social media companies for being unhelpful in fighting terrorism.