5 Technology Projects That Are Making The Internet A More Inclusive Place

The Internet is not always the most inclusive place. Well, it is in a sense, since it includes all types of people, but unfortunately, not everyone on it is all that tolerant. Fortunately, though, several tech wizards are working on projects to make the Internet more inclusive. From correcting exclusionary language to thwarting comments from trolls, these efforts are helping everyone navigate the Internet without fear (or at least with less fear) of discrimination and harassment.

And they haven't come a moment too soon. A recent Pew Research report found that 40 percent of Internet users have been harassed online, and a survey by the digital security firm Norton found that over three quarters of women under 30 had experienced online harassment. In case those numbers leave any doubts, take a look at Mia Matsumiya's Perv_Magnet Instagram, which documents exactly what sexist, racist trolling can look like. Or, look at Twitter users' misogynistic attacks against Megyn Kelly after Donald Trump started targeting her last summer.

What can we do about this? Since staying off the Internet is not a viable option, here are some projects people have been working on that make the Internet a less awful place.

1. Alex

The JavaScript tool Alex can be downloaded to your computer to correct the offensive terms you might type — possibly without realizing they're problematic — the same way Spell Check corrects your spelling (see the demo above). Software developer Titus Wormer created the script after he noticed people in his field using racially charged metaphors to describe technological concepts. Alex lets you know if anything you write has a gendered, racial, or otherwise problematic connotation so that you don't unintentionally say something to offend a particular group.

2. Echochamber.js

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Since Internet comments have a tendency to get a bit out of hand, the script Echochamber.js lets trolls rant to the only people who really care what they have to say: Themselves. On websites with the software installed, it appears to commenters as if their comments are public, but they're actually the only ones seeing them. Shopify developer Tessa Thornton created the script to spare other women and frequently trolled groups the burden of hearing what online harassers have to say about them (which isn't usually anything good).

3. TrollBusters

The free online service TrollBusters receives reports of harassment from women writers on Twitter and sends victims supportive tweets and emails with links to resources on dealing with online harassment. It also collects data on trolls' activity so that it can learn to respond to victims of trolling before they even report it. Former journalist Michelle Ferrier started the service to help writers deal with the kind of hate she once dealt with. Since online harassment can be an isolating experience, the TrollBusters team reminds victims they're not alone.

4. OKCupid (For The Non-Mainstream User)

Since online dating sites are often hubs of harassment and exclusion, the Chrome plugin OKCupid (for the Non-Mainstream User) helps OKCupid users find people who are tolerant, open-minded, and unlikely to discriminate against particular groups. It can also help people who prefer different relationship styles like polyamory find likeminded individuals and feel less alone.

5. Predator Alert

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Another concern many people, especially women, have around online dating is the possibility of real-life assault. In order to help OKCupid users minimize the chances of being assaulted in real life, the plugin Predator Alert can tell you which users have suspicious-sounding answers to questions like "Do you feel there are any circumstances in which a person is obligated to have sex with you?" Not all sexual predators are hiding in plain sight like that, but the plugin will at least catch the ones who are.

Images: Fotolia; Alex; OkCupid (for the Non-Mainstream User); Giphy (2)