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‘ParityBOT’ uses AI to combat negative tweets toward female candidates

Click to play video 'ParityBOT uses AI to combat abusive tweets to female election candidates' ParityBOT uses AI to combat abusive tweets to female election candidates
WATCH: Women - especially women in politics - receive a disproportionate amount of abusive and hateful messages on social media. ParityYEG is using artificial intelligence to send out a positive tweet for every negative one. Emily Mertz explains.

An Edmonton gender-parity advocacy group is using artificial intelligence to send positive tweets in response to abusive ones directed at women running in the federal election.

ParityBOT was previously used during Alberta’s provincial election.

READ MORE: Alberta NDP encourages women to run for municipal office: ‘gender parity is possible’

“We’ve actually made it go national,” ParityYEG Chair Kasey Machin said.

“We’re including every single woman candidate that’s running across all parties in this federal election.”

It flags abusive tweets in a similar way to how Facebook filters abusive language.

“Anything that is misogynistic, sexist, racist — it detects those words and then deems it to be abusive, which then forces the bot to tweet a positive message.”

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READ MORE: Gender equality in Canada: Where do we stand today?

It’s the organization’s attempt to help balance the scales in the social media space.

“To my count, there were about 38 positive tweets in the last 12 hours, so that gives you a bit of an indication. That means 38 women candidates have been subjected to some online hate.

“That’s the reason for this,” Machin said. “We’re just trying to put out positivity and make the space more inclusive for people who are running for office.”

ParityYEG cites experts who estimate that up to 11 per cent of all messages directed towards women in Canadian politics are not civil.

“We obviously know that this isn’t going to be the solution but it’s part of finding a solution and encouraging women to run,” Machin said.

“It’s not directed at any candidates or at the tweet that was abusive. It’s more just trying to increase the level of positivity on social media to try and combat some of the negativity.”

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Machin said the group hears over and over again that harassment and hate online is a big reason women decide not to seek public office.

“They didn’t want to have to deal with that.

“Obviously social media can be a negative place for everyone but it’s disproportionately even more negative for women and women who are either holding public office or running for public office.”

And so, a team — led by ParityYEG founder Lana Cuthbertson, artificial intelligence scientist Kory Mathewson and with support from the Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute — developed an automatic way to combat that negativity.

Watch below (Oct. 23, 2018): A local group is hoping to encourage more women to put their names on the ballot.

Click to play video 'Edmonton group leads movement for more women to run for office' Edmonton group leads movement for more women to run for office
Edmonton group leads movement for more women to run for office

READ MORE: ‘She Should Run’ event encourages women to get involved in politics

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The uplifting messages, called “positivitweets,” are collected from across the country. Anyone can submit a positive tweet suggestion.

“We’re quite proud we’ve had so many different submissions from all sorts of people, including sitting politicians,” Machin said.

“We’re really asking people to submit positive tweets so we can raise the level of decorum online.”

The group hopes making social media a little less nasty will encourage more women to run for office, making all levels of government more diverse.

READ MORE: No women at table as Canada’s premiers meet in Saskatoon

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“We don’t have gender parity at any level of government in Canada,” Machin said. “I think that speaks to the importance of getting more women elected — and people of all backgrounds. It’s important that we see diversity in the people that are representing us.”