Hate Speech Detection: A Solved Problem? The Challenging Case of Long Tail on Twitter

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Ziqi Zhang
Lei Luo

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Guest Editors Semantic Deep Learning 2018

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In recent years, the increasing propagation of hate speech on social media and the urgent need for effective counter-measures have drawn significant investment from governments, companies, and researchers. A large number of methods have been developed for automated hate speech detection online. This aims to classify textual content into non-hate or hate speech, in which case the method may also identify the targeting characteristics (i.e., types of hate, such as race, and religion) in the hate speech. However, we notice significant difference between the performance of the two (i.e., non-hate v.s. hate). In this work, we argue for a focus on the latter problem for practical reasons. We show that it is a much more challenging task, as our analysis of the language in the typical datasets shows that hate speech lacks unique, discriminative features and therefore is found in the 'long tail' in a dataset that is difficult to discover. We then propose Deep Neural Network structures serving as feature extractors that are particularly effective for capturing the semantics of hate speech. Our methods are evaluated on the largest collection of hate speech datasets based on Twitter, and are shown to be able to outperform state of the art by up to 6 percentage points in macro-average F1, or 9 percentage points in the more challenging case of identifying hateful content.
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