Oh, great. Robots can now tell when people are being sarcastic.

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It was initially designed as a tool that could detect racist posts on Twitter, but the researchers soon realised it needed to be able to translate sarcasm to be effective.

Understanding sarcasm in social media posts has been a key factor holding back monitoring tools for a number of years. Researchers have previously attempted to create computer programs that can understand the human phenomenon.

The US Secret Service said in 2014 that it was developing a way to detect sarcasm online as part of a broader plan to create its own social media monitoring tools. 

In a separate study at the University of Lisbon last year, researchers developed a program that could understand if a tweet was sarcastic in tone by comparing it with a users’ previous posts. The tool could spot sarcasm around 87 per cent of the time, according to the study. 

Online abuse has become a scourge of social media companies, with the likes of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube struggling to police hateful material on their platforms. Technology giants have employed AI tools to help stem the phenomenon, training it to spot extremist videos and understand the context of posts

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