The Washington Post has launched ModBot, a software application that utilizes artificial intelligence to moderate comments. The proprietary technology uses machine learning to automatically filter comments that require human moderating, flag stories that require real-time monitoring, and approve or delete comments based on The Post’s discussion policy. The technology evaluates comments using an algorithm that has been trained by The Post’s years-long history of human-moderated comments.

ModBot has been assisting Post comment moderators since its launch on May 5 and the technology is currently evaluating all Washington Post comments.

“With discussion streams open on nearly every article, The Post’s moderators manage a massive number of comments each day. ModBot handles the rote work, directing the more complicated decisions to human moderators,” said Greg Barber, director of digital news projects at The Post. “This technology not only helps foster healthier comment sections, but will make it easier for journalists to find and interact with the highest quality commenters.”

ModBot analyzes comments to determine if action is needed, taking into account the language in the comment and past actions Post moderators have taken on similar comments. ModBot’s dashboard displays stories with a high rate of deletion so that human moderators can watch those comments more closely and step in to moderate if necessary.

“We’ve used The Post’s rich comment moderation history to train ModBot to identify comments that require action,” said Dr. Sam Han (PhD), director of data science at The Post. “We are also working on deep learning techniques to allow ModBot to better understand words in context and decrease the need for human intervention.”

Later this summer, The Post will pair ModBot with Talk, the comment management and moderation software developed by The Coral Project, a collaboration between The Post, The New York Times, and Mozilla funded by a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

“ModBot’s analysis is granular, evaluating the words and phrases in a comment,” Barber said. “Talk’s analytics are broad, providing insights about our commenters that will help us discover and highlight voices we might otherwise have missed. Working together, Talk and ModBot will provide a textured picture of our most loyal readers, helping us to engage with them like never before.”

ModBot was co-developed by news and engineering. Both ModBot and Talk are part of The Post’s Arc Publishing suite.

About The Washington Post’s Arc Publishing
Arc Publishing (www.arcpublishing.com) is a state-of-the-art digital platform and suite of tools that’s engineered to meet the needs of modern publishers. Built by engineers and designers at The Washington Post, Arc is made up of flexible, sophisticated tools that work seamlessly together and can function individually. With more than a dozen clients, Arc spans the range of technology needs for digital publishers, including video, mobile web and apps, syndication to distributed platforms, automatic content testing, data mining and innovative monetization tools. At its core, Arc is about speed: for readers, the newsroom, advertisers and developers.