Relevant to the recent story of the teenager who was jailed for posting a sarcastic comment to Facebook, a French company has recently developed software which it claims will identify sarcastic comments posted online. No, this isn’t a joke, and isn’t an article from the Onion.
The company, Spotter, counts as its clients, among others, the EU Commission, Air France, and the Dubai court system.
Explains Spotter’s Richard May, “One of our clients is Air France. If someone has a delayed flight, they will tweet, ‘Thanks Air France for getting us into London two hours late’ – obviously they are not actually thanking them.”
But, says Simon Collister, a lecturer at the London College of Communiction, “These tools are often next to useless – in terms of understanding tone, sarcasm, it’s so dependent on context and human languages. … It’s social media and what makes it interesting and fascinating is the social side – machines just can’t comprehend that side of things in my opinion.”
According to Spotter, their tool is effective at detecting sarcastic remarks, online, up to 80% of the time.
Which means that if Facebook were using the Spotter solution, there still would have been at least a 20% chance that Justin Carter would have landed in jail for his sarcastic remarks on Facebook.
We wonder if Spotter will spot the sarcasm in that last remark.
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