John Redgrave on Building Iron Man Suits for the Janitors of the InternetFeb 1, 2021
John Redgrave made a decision that he didn't want his kids growing up in a digitally native society where online abuse was prevalent. So he set out to create the tools for content moderators to battle abusive online voices while balancing the principles of privacy.
As he put it on the latest episode of the Follow the White Rabbit podcast, John is building an Iron Man suit for content moderators -- a high-tech, shiny red one to boot. John recounts how the Marvel comic hero, Tony Stark, at one point has to improvise construction of the high-tech suit out of scraps of metal. It works, Stark achieves his mission, but the far-from-perfect suits suffered some quirky misfires along the way. John, who is a co-founder and CEO of Sentropy Technologies, used the analogy to explain how machine learning models, which are applied to moderate billions of online messages, start out far from perfect and literally learn how to be more effective. In other words, they graduate from the tin-can version to the red-and-gold state-of-the-art version to provide moderators with the tools to curb abuse. But, John emphasizes, just like Tony Stark in the Iron Man suit, human and machine working together is the winning combination.
"We are building the Iron Man suit for trust and safety agents," John said. "It is that computer human symbiosis that you have to get right before you start to think about automation."
Sentropy is a moderation platform that prioritizes the user experience of the moderators and community managers, who even though they are on the front lines in the battle against online abuse, are often thought of as the "janitors of the Internet," John said.
While John provides content moderators with the tools to shut down abuse, he is conscious of the privacy sensitivities around silencing people's voices. He estimates that only about 1 percent of people in online communities are abusive and believes that their privacy rights shouldn't override the need to protect vulnerable people online, such as the LGBT community.
"If you don't curb abusive voices, then you are silencing the voices of those people who don't have enough protection," he said.
John's journey to building superhero suits for the Internet's janitors started with his own heroics -- helping to take down human trafficking rings during the Super Bowl. To hear more of John's story and his perspectives on how to build trust in digital communities and the rise of the dark web, follow us down the rabbit hole. Listen to the conversation here or on your favorite streaming service.