Google unveils a machine learning app for reporting on hate in America

Google News Lab Hate Crimes News

Google has launched a machine learning tool to help journalists in the US cover ‘hate news’.

“Hate crimes in America have historically been difficult to track since there is very little official data collected and what does exist, is incomplete and not very useful for reporters desperate to find out the facts,” said Simon Rogers, data editor at Google News Lab.

Earlier this year, ProPublica, supported by Google News Lab, formed Documenting Hate, a collaborative reporting project that aims to create a national database by collecting and categorising news stories related to hate crime attacks and abuses from across America.

Now, with ProPublica, Google is launching a new machine learning tool to help journalists leverage this data in their reporting.

Constantly updating snapshot

The Documenting Hate News Index — built by the Google News Lab, data visualisation studio Pitch Interactive and ProPublica — takes a raw feed of Google News  articles from the past six months and uses the Google Cloud Natural Language API to create a visual tool for reporters.

“It’s a constantly-updating snapshot of data from this year, one which is valuable as a starting point to reporting on this area of news,” said Rogers.

“The new index will help make this data easier to understand and visualise.  It is one of the first visualisations to use machine learning to generate its content using the Google Natural Language API, which analyses text and extracts information about people, places, and events.

“In this case, it helps reporters by digging out locations, names and other useful data from the 3,000-plus news reports.”

Hate tories already uncovered

The feed is updated each day, and goes back to February this year. It is generated from news articles that cover events suggestive of hate crime, bias or abuse – such as anti-semitic graffiti or local court reports about incidents.

The Documenting Hate coalition of reporters has already covered a number of stories on this area, including an examination of white supremacism in Charlottesvilleracist graffitiaggression at a concert in Columbus, Ohio and the rise of hate in schools.

Users of the app can filter the reports by searching for a keyword in the search box or by clicking on algorithmically-generated keywords. They can also see reports by date by clicking ‘calendar’.