British company SMC4 has developed a new software product that could land a pretty high-profile user base - anti-trolling software.
According to the Telegraph, SMC4 Lite "reads all inbound and outgoing social media messages from the user's Twitter account and automatically blocks any profanity, sexism, racism and other inappropriate language."
Twitter does offer the option to block abusive accounts and report spam, but in order to block someone the user first has to be subjected to the abusive tweets in the first place. The result is kind of a whack-a-mole dyanmic, in which Twitter users who encounter a lot of trolls have to block them as they appear. Blocking and reporting abusive accounts also doesn't deter the really determined trolls who create new accounts just to attack those who have blocked them.
In theory, this makes the anti-trolling software, called SMC4 Lite, perfect for celebrities who encounter frequent insults on Twitter.
The solution appears to be to monitor the content of the abusive Tweets instead. Accordign to The Telegraph, the free version of the software offers 10 daily "transactions," which are defined as six-minute periods in which the software rounds up and deletes abusive messages. These 10 transactions can be dispersed throughout the day. The paid version offers unlimited transactions, and an enterprise edition is adaptible for company Facebook pages.
Michael Veenswyk, the company's CEO, told The Telegraph the company could not make a solution for personal Facebook accounts because Facebook does not allow third-party apps to control private accounts.
"Mark Zucerkburg and Facebook have a duty of care to protect young people and could easily stop social media abuse by unlocking the Private Facebook user API, enabling authorised 3rd parties like SMC4 to end profanity attacks and trolling," Veenswyk said.
SMC4 could be onto something, as long as the software works. And when I say works, I mean it has to work almost flawlessly, because any small misunderstanding or slip-ups will ruin its reputation.
The first aspect to consider is the product's approach. The app is apparently designed to monitor "profanity, sexism, racism and other inappropriate language," but how well is it at gauging context? What happens when a user finds his or her friends' attempts at jokes on Twitter are being blocked? Has SMC4 developed an app that can read sarcasm?
Going further, what does the software do about misspellings? If you haven't noticed, proper spelling isn't the chief concern of most Twitter users, and a slightly misspelled curse word still gets the point across.
Then consider that the company is targeting high-profile users. What happens if a celebrity finds that he or she can't joke with friends on Twitter without keeping it clean, while spelling-challenged trolls still make it through? One dissatisfied celebrity could spoil the software's name with a few hundred thousand people.