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An initial review of over 500,000 business websites revealed that 22% have some form of biased language, with more than half containing instances of racial bias and almost a quarter containing instances of gender bias.
WILMINGTON, Del. — July 29, 2020 — UserWay.org, creator of advanced website accessibility technologies, has today released its new AI-Powered Content Moderator to help organizations ensure their websites are free from discriminatory, biased and racially-charged language.
“UserWay is tackling what’s necessary, difficult, and dangerous,” said Rob Enderle, principal analyst, Enderle Group. “Our business vocabulary often appears to have its origins in many original sins: racism, sexism, homophobia – you name it. What UserWay is doing is weeding out offensive remnants from an earlier era so that companies can be upstanding corporate citizens of the twenty-first century. Certain terms that are probably perfectly acceptable right now may not be acceptable six months from now, and UserWay makes adjusting and complying with the latest acceptable norms simple.”
The tool works by intelligently flagging content for review, and nothing is deleted or removed without approval from site administrators. These capabilities have recently been rolled out to all of UserWay’s paying customers as part of the AI-Powered Accessibility Widget, an advanced AI-based compliance-as-a-service (CaaS) technology that ensures brands provide an accessible digital experience that meets strict governmental and ADA regulations.
“We believe accessibility is not limited to equal access for the differently-abled but serves as an extension of greater equality across race, religion and gender,” said UserWay founder and CEO Allon Mason. “The goal of the Content Moderator isn’t to censor or silence but to make web teams aware of problematic language in user-generated content or in content they may have overlooked.”
The Problem Is Pervasive
Prior to launching UserWay’s AI-Powered Content Moderator, UserWay ran its rule engine across more than 500,000 websites. Their findings were concerning.
Some 22% of the sites scanned contained some form of biased, racially charged or offensive language. Of those:
- 52% – Sites with instances of racial bias
- 24% – Sites with instances of gender bias
- 12% – Sites with instances of age bias
- 5% – Sites with racial slurs
- 3% – Sites with disability bias
Many of the words most frequently flagged for racial bias in this sample are considered culturally sensitive and divisive, including “blackmail,” “whitelist,” “black sheep,” “blacklist,” and “black mark,” as well as other, more offensive terms. Those most often flagged for gender bias included “chairman,” “fireman,” “mankind,” “forefather,” and “man-made.”
Many of these terms have only recently been understood to be divisive and prejudicial. It is an enormous task for most site owners to keep track of the latest consensus around culturally sensitive terms. UserWay makes this previously almost impossible task simple, centralized and scalable.
A Simple Way to Do Better
UserWay’s AI-Powered Content Moderator is the first general, cross-website content moderation tool designed specifically for the greater public.
Historically, content moderation solutions that use AI to detect racial bias and divisive speech have been site-specific, expensive and available only within large social media platforms. Now, any website owner can just drop in the UserWay widget and be alerted to divisive or offensive language as it appears, in real time. It works in three steps:
Scan: UserWay’s AI-Powered Content Moderator scans all the content on a website, both static and dynamic.
Flag: It then flags words and phrases that may inadvertently promote stereotypes or prejudice, including text that could be considered racist, sexist, anti-Semitic, homophobic, xenophobic, violent, intolerant, or otherwise offensive.
Review: Finally, site administrators review the suggestions and choose the ones they’d like to accept. They can also edit the suggestions to flow with the site’s content or recommend alternative replacements that are then fed back into UserWay’s AI.
Cultural and racial sensitivities are complex and evolve quickly, and organizations that use the Content Moderator immediately benefit from the decisions taken on millions of site pages and processed by UserWay’s AI.
The Time for More Inclusive Speech Is Now
The past few weeks have seen many legacy brands (Aunt Jemima, Uncle Ben’s and Eskimo Pie, among others) yield to mounting pressure from consumers to rid products of racial and ethnic stereotypes. Technology companies have likewise been reevaluating the usage of racialized words like “blacklist” and “whitelist” in favor of more inclusive language.
But the matter isn’t purely about brand integrity. Civil rights advocates, led by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), have increased pressure to ensure websites are carefully moderated, and recent calls for repeal of Section 230 of the U.S. Communications Decency Act may expose online publishers to future legal action for defamation based on opinions or reviews created by platform users.
In concert with the UserWay Accessibility Widget, the AI-Powered Content Moderator helps organizations mitigate the legal risk of both ADA- and ADL-related violations.
Ways to reduce inciting, harmful language are welcomed by specialists in the field of systematic bias. “We all know a list of words that are mocking (to put it mildly) of a variety of racial groups, or a variety of religious groups, or other political or gender persuasions,” said Dr. Israel W. Charny, Israeli psychologist, genocide scholar and executive director of the Institute on the Holocaust and Genocide in Jerusalem.
“These targeted, deeply attacking statements exhort or even seem to advocate detrimental actions against those who are identified by that word. UserWay’s Content Moderation tool flags these words and allows you to change them, an act of voluntary editing with cultural sensitivity. Giving options for improvement reduces the onus of the coerciveness that some people are feeling.”
“UserWay is a terrific accessibility solution that helps our users read all of our content and access our services with no additional changes in our server code. We recently heard from a customer that has impaired vision, and our site is one of the few locally that he can use with no trouble.”
“Understanding and responding to ADA regulations for accessibility was a challenging task for our small team. With UserWay we are able to meet our goals, such as increased usability for our website, legal mitigation, and a rapid time to market at negligible cost.”
“UserWay allows companies to process years of legacy content for code accessibility, community sensitivity and brand alignment quickly and thoroughly, saving significant corporate resources and building welcoming, exciting communities.”
UserWay.org creates advanced website accessibility solutions that help ensure ADA compliance without refactoring a website’s existing code. With UserWay’s CaaS (Compliance as a Service) technology, you can effortlessly increase compliance with WCAG 2.1, ADA, ATAG 2.0, EN 301-549, and Section 508 regulations as required by US and international governmental and regulatory bodies. UserWay is led by a world-class team with decades of experience with complex accessibility protocols, delivery of large-scale systems, and innovation. UserWay’s engineers, entrepreneurs and visionaries are defining the future of digital accessibility for us all.