Inspiration

YouTube is a place for millions of people to share their voices and engage with their communities. Unfortunately, the YouTube comments section is notorious for enabling anonymous users to post hateful and derogatory messages with the click of a button. These messages are purely meant to cause anger and depression without ever providing any constructive criticism. For YouTubers, this means seeing the degrading and mentally-harmful comments on their content, and for the YouTube community, this means reading negative and offensive comments on their favorite videos. As young adults who consume this online content, we feel as though it is necessary to have a tool that combats these comments to make YouTube a safer place.

What it does

HackTube automatically analyzes every YouTube video you watch, targeting comments which are degrading and offensive. It is constantly checking the page for hateful comments, so if the user loads more comments, the extension will pick those up. It then blocks comments which it deems damaging to the user, listing the total number of blocked comments at the top of the page. This process is all based on user preference, since the user chooses which types of comments (sexist, racist, homophobic, etc) they do not want to see. It is important to note that the user can disable the effects of the extension at any time. HackTube is not meant to censor constructive criticism; rather, it combats comments which are purely malicious in intent.

How we built it

HackTube uses JavaScript to parse through every YouTube comment almost instantly, comparing its content to large arrays that we made which are full of words that are commonly used in hate speech. We chose our lists of words carefully to ensure that the extension would focus on injurious comments rather than helpful criticism. We used standard HTML and CSS to style the popup for the extension and the format of the censored comments.

Challenges we ran into

We are trying to use cookies to create settings for the user which would be remembered even after the user closes the browser. That way anyone who uses HackTube will be able to choose exactly which types of comments they don't want to see and then have those preferences remembered by the extension. Unfortunately, Chrome blocks the use of cookies unless you use a special API, and we didn't have enough time to complete our implementation of that API at this hackathon.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

We are proud of making a functional product that can not only fight online harassment and cyberbullying but also appeal to a wide variety of people.

What we learned

We learned how to dynamically alter the source code of a webpage through a Chrome extension. We also learned just how many YouTube comments are full of hate and malicious intent.

What's next for HackTube

Right now, for demo purposes, HackTube merely changes the hateful comments into a red warning statement. In the future, HackTube will have an option to fully take out the malicious comment, so users’ YouTube comments feed will be free of any trace of hateful comments. Users won’t have to worry about how many comments were flagged and what they contained. Additionally, we will have a way for users to input their own words that offend them and take the comments that contain those words out of the section.

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