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  1. Abusive language is a massive problem in online social platforms. Existing abusive language detection techniques are particularly ill-suited to comments containing heterogeneous abusive language patterns, i.e., both abusive and non-abusive parts. This is due in part to the lack of datasets that explicitly annotate heterogeneity in abusive language. We tackle this challenge by providing an annotated dataset of abusive language in over 11,000 comments from YouTube. We account for heterogeneity in this dataset by separately annotating both the comment as a whole and the individual sentences that comprise each comment. We then propose an algorithm that uses a supervised attention mechanism to detect and categorize abusive content using multi-task learning. We empirically demonstrate the challenges of using traditional techniques on heterogeneous content and the comparative gains in performance of the proposed approach over state-of-the-art methods.
  2. Fringe groups and organizations have a long history of using euphemisms---ordinary-sounding words with a secret meaning---to conceal what they are discussing. Nowadays, one common use of euphemisms is to evade content moderation policies enforced by social media platforms. Existing tools for enforcing policy automatically rely on keyword searches for words on a ``ban list'', but these are notoriously imprecise: even when limited to swearwords, they can still cause embarrassing false positives. When a commonly used ordinary word acquires a euphemistic meaning, adding it to a keyword-based ban list is hopeless: consider ``pot'' (storage container or marijuana?) or ``heater'' (household appliance or firearm?). The current generation of social media companies instead hire staff to check posts manually, but this is expensive, inhumane, and not much more effective. It is usually apparent to a human moderator that a word is being used euphemistically, but they may not know what the secret meaning is, and therefore whether the message violates policy. Also, when a euphemism is banned, the group that used it need only invent another one, leaving moderators one step behind. This paper will demonstrate unsupervised algorithms that, by analyzing words in their sentence-level context, can both detect words being used euphemistically,more »and identify the secret meaning of each word. Compared to the existing state of the art, which uses context-free word embeddings, our algorithm for detecting euphemisms achieves 30--400\% higher detection accuracies of unlabeled euphemisms in a text corpus. Our algorithm for revealing euphemistic meanings of words is the first of its kind, as far as we are aware. In the arms race between content moderators and policy evaders, our algorithms may help shift the balance in the direction of the moderators.« less
  3. Motivated by applications in wireless networks and the Internet of Things, we consider a model of n nodes trying to reach consensus with high probability on their majority bit. Each node i is assigned a bit at time 0 and is a finite automaton with m bits of memory (i.e.,2mstates) and a Poisson clock. When the clock of i rings, i can choose to communicate and is then matched to a uniformly chosen node j. The nodes j and i may update their states based on the state of the other node. Previous work has focused on minimizing the time to consensus and the probability of error, while our goal is minimizing the number of communications. We show that, whenm>3logloglog(n), consensus can be reached with linear communication cost, but this is impossible ifm<logloglog(n). A key step is to distinguish when nodes can become aware of knowing the majority bit and stop communicating. We show that this is impossible if their memory is too low.

  4. The concept of a blockchain was invented by Satoshi Nakamoto to maintain a distributed ledger. In addition to its security, important performance measures of a blockchain protocol are its transaction throughput and confirmation latency. In a decentralized setting, these measures are limited by two underlying physical network attributes: communication capacity and speed-of-light propagation delay. In this work we introduce Prism, a new proof-of-work blockchain protocol, which can achieve 1) security against up to 50% adversarial hashing power; 2) optimal throughput up to the capacity C of the network; 3) confirmation latency for honest transactions proportional to the propagation delay D, with confirmation error probability exponentially small in the bandwidth-delay product CD; 4) eventual total ordering of all transactions. Our approach to the design of this protocol is based on deconstructing Nakamoto’s blockchain into its basic functionalities and systematically scaling up these functionalities to approach their physical limits.
  5. A blockchain is a database of sequential events that is maintained by a distributed group of nodes. A key consensus problem in blockchains is that of determining the next block (data element) in the sequence. Many blockchains address this by electing a new node to propose each new block. The new block is (typically) appended to the tip of the proposer’s local blockchain, and subsequently broadcast to the rest of the network. Without network delay (or adversarial behavior), this procedure would give a perfect chain, since each proposer would have the same view of the blockchain. A major challenge in practice is forking. Due to network delays, a proposer may not yet have the most recent block, and may therefore create a side chain that branches from the middle of the main chain. Forking reduces throughput, since only one a single main chain can survive, and all other blocks are discarded. We propose a new P2P protocol for blockchains called Barracuda, in which each proposer, prior to proposing a block, polls ℓ other nodes for their local blocktree information. Under a stochastic network model, we prove that this lightweight primitive improves throughput as if the entire network were a factormore »of ℓ faster. We provide guidelines on how to implement Barracuda in practice, guaranteeing robustness against several real-world factors.« less