This Ex-NSA Hacker Is Building an AI to Find Hate Symbols on Twitter
In August of this year, a white supremacist plowed through a crowd of protesters gathered in downtown Charlottesville, Virginia. The attack injured around 20 people and killed 32-year-old Heather Heyer. The violent clashes that weekend shocked Americans, among them Emily Crose, who wanted to be there to protest against the white supremacists but couldn’t make it. A friend of hers was there, and was attacked and hurt by neo-Nazis.
Crose is a former NSA analyst and ex-Reddit moderator who now works at a cybersecurity startup. Inspired by her friend’s courage, and horrified by the events in Charlottesville, Crose now spends her free time teaching an AI how to automatically spot Nazi symbols in pictures spread online, be it on Twitter, Reddit, or Facebook.
Wanting to use her expertise to help expose ideologies like those seen in Charlottesville, she started this project, which she calls NEMESIS.
Crose’s motivation is to expose white nationalists who use more or less obscure, mundane, or abstract symbols—or so-called dog whistles—in their posts, such as the Black Sun and certain Pepe the frog memes. Crose’s goal is not only to expose people who use these symbols online but hopefully also push the social media companies to clamp down on hateful rhetoric online.
“The real goal is to educate people,” Crose told me in a phone call. “And a secondary goal: I’d really like to get the social media platforms to start thinking how they can enforce some decency on their own platforms, a certain level of decorum.”
“I’m not one of these people who’s going to be OK with apathetically standing by and watching people turn to an ideology that’s probably dangerous,” she added.
The complete article was originally published in Motherboard, written by Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai. View our archive of articles from Motherboard, here.