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New Chrome extension to block out online hate

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Soothe web application allows users to filter out online content that they find either hateful or offensive.

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The internet can be a minefield of hate and abuse, a problem Canadian operation Soothe is trying to tackle with its new Chrome extension – Soothe. Using a simple and clean UI, it allows users to select topics such as Homophobic, Racist, Sexist, Transphobic, Violent and Sexually Violent, and once selected all such content will be blurred out.

Developed in Ottawa in conjunction with the #HackHarassment drive to fight harassment and abuse, and part of a competition sponsored by Major League Hacking, once users have selected the topics they no longer want to see, the software will then blur it out, be it a google search result, Facebook post or a particularly poisonous tweet. Users can then, if they choose, click on the blurred out content if they need to see it.

It works by looking for trigger words, yet is also smart enough to determine context so it doesn’t just blanket cover all uses of certain words, just when used in offensive context. It also lets users add words and phrases that might have gone under the radar, which could prove handy as trolls and web abusers invent new terminologies and methods to express their hate and abuse.

Fighting harassment and hostility is going to be an ongoing battle in this digital age. Apps like SMC4 have been around for a while, and in Brazil Criola developed a new initiative to shame offensive posters by putting the posts on actual billboards. But is this a battle that can ever truly be won?



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