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Google gets in on publishers’ online comments section game

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In recognising to the potential value of – but also challenges of managing – online comment sections on publisher websites, Google Digital News Initiative (GNI) has launched Perspective, an API “that helps online platforms and publishers host better conversations”. The news comes soon after we wrote extensively about the topic, quoting The Coral Project and Civil Company and asking if it is time for publishers to rethink comment sections.

The Coral Project is a collaborative open source project between The Washington Post, The New York Times and Mozilla, while Civil Co is a private company.

According to Google GNI, “many readers and publishers share the ideal of the internet as a global forum for comment, debate and challenging ideas. But in practice, maintaining this ideal has not always been easy” – referring to challenges with managing comment sections to prevent trolling, outright abuse and more. For publishers, this can result in less engaged readers and a diminished sense of reader community. It’s a serious business challenge.

“It’s also a technological challenge that Google has decided to tackle. Thanks for advancements in machine learning, we’ve been able to build models that can analyse text and score it based on historic data and its perceived impact on conversation.”

According to DNI, the Perspective API gives access “to these models, starting with a ‘toxicity’ score (i.e. whether a comment should be perceived as ‘toxic’ to a discussion. Publishers can use this score to give real-time feedback to commenters, help moderators do their job, or allow readers to easily find relevant information. Our hope is that Perspective will become a key part of publishers’ ability to analyse comment language at scale, and thus facilitate an open and constructive commenting community.”

Those interested in being listed for Perspective API access can contact the Google DNI team via digitalnewsinitiative@google.com. The team can also be contacted via perspective-dni-support@google.com for queries, feedback, new ideas and thoughts.

“We’re looking forward to working together to help publishers turn comments back on, increase reader engagement, and try to fulfil the ideal of the internet,” Google DNI says in their statement.

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[Long read] Time to rethink the (often maligned) comment section?

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