Instagram launches AI tools to combat extremism; Facebook’s internet drones take flight

Instagram is using artificial intelligence (AI) in two news tools designed to block offensive and spam comments on posts to the photo sharing app.

The Facebook-owned platform said the AI filters have been “trained” to identify and block comments from appearing underneath posts if they are recognised as either offensive or spam-related.

A button is being added to the app’s settings under the Comments section, enabling users to turn on the comment blocker.

“Powered by machine learning, today’s filters are our latest tools to keep Instagram a safe place,” Instagram chief executive Kevin Systrom wrote in a blog post.

“Our team has been training our systems for some time to recognise certain types of offensive and spammy comments so you never have to see them.

“The tools will improve over time, enabling the community’s experience of sharing to improve as well. We hope to make these filters available in more languages as our algorithms improve.”

Social media giants Facebook and Twitter have been among those criticised by the Government in recent months over their response to hate-filled and extreme content on their platforms, something both have pledged to improve. Earlier this week, along with YouTube and Microsoft, they agreed to form a global working group to combine their efforts to remove terrorist content from their platforms. 

“We believe that using machine learning to build tools to safeguard self-expression is an important step in fostering more inclusive, kinder communities,” Systrom said.

“Our work is far from finished and perfect, but I hope we’re helping you feel safer and more welcome on Instagram.”

Meanwhile, Facebook has completed a second test of an unmanned aircraft designed to beam internet access to remote parts of the planet, and unlike in the first test, the drone did not crash.

Facebook plans to develop a fleet of drones powered by sunlight that will fly for months at a time, communicating with each other through lasers and extending internet connectivity to the ground below.

The company called the first test, in June 2016, a success after it flew above the Arizona desert for 1 hour and 36 minutes, three times longer than planned. It later said the drone had also crashed moments before landing and had suffered a damaged wing.

The second test occurred on 22 May, Martin Luis Gomez, Facebook’s director of aeronautical platforms, said in a blog post. The aircraft flew for an hour and 46 minutes before landing near Yuma, Arizona, with only “a few minor, easily-repairable dings,” he said.

Facebook engineers had added spoilers to the aircraft’s wings to increase drag and reduce lift during the landing approach, Gomez said.

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