The Bridge: Technology has a cool tendency to advance culture and language in weird and wacky ways – one of which includes “Algospeak”. If you’re thinking “WTF is Algospeak”, strap in for a quick journey through internet syntax.
Algospeak, or “algorithm speak”, refers to code words or expressions that social media users adopt in order to avoid content moderation systems. These moderation systems = 🤖 that pick up on harmful language or language patterns that could be describing sensitive information.
Because social networks have different guidelines, algospeak is different on every platform, but common examples on TikTok include the following substitutions:
- “Corn” or 🌽 instead of porn
- “Unalive” instead of dead or kill
- “Spicy Accountant” instead of sex worker
- “S3ggs” instead of sex
- “Camping” instead of abortion
Creating new spellings, word meanings, and emoji uses is very useful to content creators who don’t want to end up shadow banned 🛑 while sharing useful information. Unfortunately, like most things on the internet, weird and wonderful algospeak is also being used for evil.
Surprise, surprise… 🙄
In fact, almost one-third of Americans on social media and gaming sites say they’ve used algospeak to undermine rules against hate speech. After all, how do we expect AI to learn that “s3gg$” = “sex”?
Even our human eyes didn’t recognize that one.
Look no further than Tik Tok for frequent examples of people using algospeak, the app practically runs on it. For an application with so many filters, it’s amazing what lengths people will go to avoid just one.
Suddenly, I Can’t Read 📖👀
The dawn of algospeak may have something to do with cursive’s last moments. We were pretty shocked to find out that most K-12 schools no longer include cursive writing in their curriculum, and even more shocked to find out that many Gen Z (and even some Millennials) can’t read cursive writing!
At first glance this appears to be a small problem – after all, everything is digital these days. But when it comes to understanding the past, where many books and documents are written completely in cursive, the cursive-less will need to rely on print translations to understand.
They’re also just drawing squiggles for signatures 😂
It’s unlikely that cursive will come back into style, technology is 100% responsible for that, but it does make us wonder what will replace things like the keyboard, text-to-talk, and emojis?
Time will tell.