The Biden administration is expected to award more than $550,000 in grants to create artificial intelligence that can automatically detect and stop microaggressions on social media, according to government spending records.
The grant, which was funded by President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, was given to University of Washington researchers in March. Over the next five years, the researchers anticipate their grant to total $550,436; they have already received $132,000 in funding.
The research’s objective is to develop machine-learning models that can scan social media posts for evidence of implicit bias and microaggressions, which are typically characterized as insults that cause minorities to feel offended. The research funding by the administration comes as the White House is under increased scrutiny and debunks claims that it is attempting to censor online speech.
Last month, Biden demanded an investigation into the Twitter purchase by tech tycoon Elon Musk after Musk pledged that the business would uphold a “free speech” agenda. The “Twitter Files,” which were internal company communications that Musk released earlier this month, showed a long-standing partnership between Twitter and the FBI. The disclosures demonstrated the agency’s significant involvement in platform content moderation tasks.
Despite stating that microaggressions can be unintentional and unconscious, the research’s description does not give examples of the kinds of remarks that would be considered micro aggressions.
According to the National Science Foundation, the project is being led by computer science professor Yulia Tsvetkov. Tsvetkov has written studies that suggest the AI model might identify and censor speech that many people would not deem offensive, such as support for the meritocracy idea.
Tsvetkov provided examples of microaggressions in a 2019 study titled “Finding Microaggressions in the Wild,” which included remarks like “Your mom is white, so it’s not like you’re really Black” and inquiries like “But where are you from, originally?” Dan Schneider, vice president of the free speech division of the Media Research Center, stated that it is not the responsibility of the government to regulate speech that some people may find to be offensive or emotionally taxing.
Our rights should be protected by the government, not restricted.