Intel is launching an artificial intelligence application that will recognize and redact hate speech in real-time. It’s called Bleep, and Intel hopes it’ll help with one of gaming's oldest and most intractable problems—people can be real pieces of shit online.
A video of the app shows that it will allow users to customize what kind and how much hate speech they want to see, including "Racism" and "White Nationalism" sliders that can be set to "none," "some," "most," or "all," and a separate on and off toggle for the "N-word."
“While we recognize that solutions like Bleep don’t erase the problem, we believe it’s a step in the right direction—giving gamers a tool to control their experience,” Roger Chandler, Vice President and General Manager of Intel Client Product Solutions, said during a virtual presentation at 2021’s Game Developers Conference.
According to Intel Marketing Engineer Craig Raymond, Bleep is “an end-user application that uses AI to detect and redact audio based on your user preferences.”
In footage of the application, Bleep presented users with a list of sliders so gamers can control the amount of hate and abuse they encounter. The list included ableism and body shaming, LGBTQ+ hate, aggression, misogyny, name-calling, racism and xenophobia, sexually explicit language, swearing, and white nationalism.
As Chandler explained, Intel can't "solve" racism or the long-running and well-documented problems in gaming culture (and culture more broadly). At the same time, Bleep is techno-AI solutionism that feels pretty dystopian, pitching racism, xenophobia, and general toxicity as settings that can be tuned up and down as though they were graphics, sound, or control sliders on a video game. It is also a way of admitting defeat: if we can't stop players from being incredibly racist in chat, we can simply filter out what they say and pretend they don't exist.
Every time I’ve confronted hate speech in an online space I hear some variation of “if you don’t like it leave” or “then mute me.”
It’s too easy to imagine a world in the future where programs like Bleep give hateful assholes online an excuse to say whatever wild shit comes into their head and hide behind their target’s imagined personal responsibility. “Just mute me” might become “just use Bleep if you don’t want to hear my vile racist slurs.”
Intel said Bleep would launch this year but was light on details. It did not, for example, explain what it means to allow some white nationalism into your life, but not all. “It’s a complex problem, one the entire industry has to address,” Chandler said. “We realize technology isn’t a complete answer but we believe it can help mitigate the problem while deeper solutions are explored.”
Like the man said, Bleep feels like an attempt by Intel to twist the giant racism dial until it gets its levels just right.
According to Intel, “Toxic language is a pain point for many gamers….content moderation usually focus on the platform or streamer, but few tools are given to the end user,” it told Motherboard in an email.
“This application is designed to be entirely opt in, giving the user control over their experience and the choice to redact incoming audio from other players based on the user's preferences. In this sense it is similar to a volume control, but for content the user finds offensive.”
I asked Intel what words would be bleeped and wanted to know what the difference between “some” white nationalism and “no” white nationalism. The app is still a work in progress,” it said. “We built it with community feedback and continue to listen to feedback. Today Bleep keeps a text log that the user (owner) can view to see what was bleeped (not who). The logs do not persist after the application is restarted. All of Bleep’s algorithms run locally on the user’s client. No data is sent outside of the user’s system.”
Updated 4/8/21: This story was updated with comment from Intel.