Monday February 19, 2018
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Blind Facebook employee is developing tech for sightless

At Facebook, he works on features to help people with disabilities use the platform.

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  • A blind Facebook employee is developing AI to make social network for sightless fun
  • He is developing AI which will verbalise images and videos
  • This technology will enable alt-text for images and videos

A blind Facebook employee is developing a technology that will use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to verbalise the content of an image or video and enable the visually impaired to “see” and determine appropriate content for people and advertisers.

Facebook engineer Matt King is leading a project that is making solutions for visually impaired people on the platform that could eventually be used to identify images and videos that violate Facebook’s terms of use or that advertisers want to avoid.

Also Read : Facebook might bring Stories on desktop 

This feature will verbalise images and videos for the visually impaired. Image Source: Reuters
This feature will verbalise images and videos for the visually impaired. Image Source: Reuters

“More than two billion photos are shared across Facebook every single day. That’s a situation where a machine-based solution adds a lot more value than a human-based solution ever could,” CNBC quoted King as saying late on Saturday.

King, who was born with a degenerative eye disease called retinitis pigmentosa, lost his vision by the time he got his degree and started working at IBM with the tech giant’s accessibility projects.

He worked on a screen reader to help visually impaired people “see” what is on their screens either through audio cues or a braille device. IBM eventually developed the first screen reader for a graphical interface.

He worked with the accessibility team till Facebook hired him from IBM in 2015.

The man behind this development is Matt King.
The man behind this development is Matt King.

At Facebook, he works on features to help people with disabilities use the platform, like adding captions to videos or coming up with ways to navigate the site using only audio cues.

“Anybody who has any kind of disability can benefit from Facebook. They can develop beneficial connections and understand their disability doesn’t have to define them, to limit them,” King said.

Also Read : Facebook Profit Escalates with No Major Impact from Russia and it’s Advertisements

One of his main projects is “automated alt-text,” which describes audibly what is in Facebook images.

When automated alt-text was launched in April 2016, it was only available in five languages on the iOS app. Today it is available in over 29 languages on Facebook on the web, iOS and Android.

Facebook is available in more than 29 languages across the world. Pixabay
Facebook is available in more than 29 languages across the world. Pixabay

“The things people post most frequently kind of has a limited vocabulary associated with it,” the Facebook engineer said.

“It makes it possible for us to have one of those situations where if you can tackle 20 per cent of the solution, it tackles 80 per cent of the problem. It’s getting that last 20 per cent which is a lot of work, but we’re getting there,” he said.

In December 2017, Facebook pushed an automatic alt-text update that used facial recognition to help visually impaired people find out who is in photos. IANS

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Social Media in India: Understanding The Dynamics of ‘Facebook’ and ‘Twitter’

Social media, a double-edged sword, is an evolving forum of communication in the internet media

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social media
India has world’s largest number of Facebook Users with over 195 million users, overtaking US by over 4 million subscribers. Pixabay

Social media is a strange place that connects millions of people worldwide. It is a platform that keeps people engaged in several trending issues. However, the point of concern being, how do they react? This makes social media a double-edged sword.

Let’s take an example. Once, a photo of a young schoolboy from a poor family went viral. The boy was sitting outside a Noida metro station, trying to earn money through a weighing scale and studying at the same time. He caught the attention of one of the commuters. A picture was taken and uploaded on Facebook. The picture went viral. Now, there were several people who came forward to help. One of them was the then Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Akhilesh Yadav, who promised to ensure full opportunity for them to study without having to work.

ALSO READ: Social Media: Here is how it is creating Lifestyle pressure on Youth!

social media
Twitter, the microblogging site has 23.2 million Monthly Active Users in India, which is 2nd largest in Asia-Pacific after Japan with 26 million MUAs. Pixabay

This was one example or the so-called ‘positive side’ of social media. Now let’s turn the page and look at the other side of the road. Here the ‘other-type’ instances on social media:

  • In 2012, morphed pictures and videos of earthquake victims went viral. The morphed images were aimed to show that these were Muslim victims of civil riots in Assam and Burma. This was done to provoke riots by vested interests.
  • There were instances of hate and revenge messages being spread against Hindu migrants living in South India. This resulted in a mass exodus of people from the North East.
  • At an individual level, there are many examples where when a relationship went sour, one of the partners uploaded intimate pictures, videos or information, in revenge against their former partner.
  • Another point of concern is the easy access to all types of porn by minors. This is resulting in rapidly changing social behavior and redefining morality.

The major problem being stated is that the society as a larger whole is unable to keep pace and social media is, hence, increasing the gap between older and younger generations rather than bringing them closer.

social media
There are over 30 Million LinkedIn Users in India, while 467 million users globally. Pixabay

ALSO READ: Teenagers using Social Media more likely to suffer sleep deprivations: Study

Should there be government intervention in the use of social media?

India is witnessing increasing internet and mobile penetration. With first-time users onto these platforms, the risk of mass hysteria or communal reactions increases. It is imperative for the government to get together all stakeholders of civil society and try and address the issue of balancing media freedom with media regulation.

Putting regulations or any type of curbs on the internet will be a sensitive subject in any type of free society and of course, it will result in certain opposition. However, what we need to understand is, each society is different. Therefore, every society has to develop its own mechanism to address the negative consequences of social media.

social media
There are 16 Million Instagram users in India. Pixabay

For example, the Indian government had blocked internet services in the state of Jammu and Kashmir during the period of eid in 2015. It was a preventive measure. However, despite the ban, there were clashes with the police and violence. The point of concern being, the situation could have been much worse had the internet and social media been accessible.

With the world getting increasingly connected through the web and India on the cusp of a ‘Digital’ revolution, the government must take up establishing clear cybersecurity laws and cyber management policies on an urgent basis. Social media could work as a development catalyst or could become a national threat.