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Google vet's new Candid app for anonymous sharing puts trolls in their place

Bindu Reddy wanted a social app where she could say what she really thought, hear unfiltered responses and tamp down the volume on trolls.

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Candid CEO and co-founder Bindu Reddy

Candid

Candid, an anonymous-sharing app aiming for frank debate, launched Thursday, the brainchild of Google vet Bindu Reddy.

Reddy, Candid's CEO and a former head of product for Google's social apps, said she embarked to create Candid after she felt unable to share unfiltered opinions on mainstream social networks.

"My social media network includes everyone in my life, from friends I haven't seen since high school to family members and work colleagues. Expressing my opinion, especially about controversial issues, inevitably upsets someone," she said in a statement. "I needed a place to express myself and engage in discussions where ideas can be debated on their own merits instead of being used to attack me as a person."

In the last week, outcry has mounted about trolling and some social networks' milquetoast efforts to control the hate-driven online attacks. Tuesday, Twitter conceded it hasn't done enough to curb abuse, after it banned high-profile troll Milo Yiannopoulos. A tech journalist who has described himself as the "most fabulous supervillain on the internet," Yiannopoulos stoked Twitter users to bombard "Ghostbusters" star Leslie Jones with racist and misogynist tweets tied to her appearance in the female-led film remake.

Joining a cohort of anonymous-sharing apps like Whisper and Yik Yak, Candid leans on artificial intelligence to moderate posts. To combat the typical occurrence of a small number of users contributing the majority of negative posts, Candid developed a "natural language processing" technology to analyze all posts. The tech is meant to remove objectionable content, flag negative posts, and redirect off-topic comments to appropriate groups. The app also has a "sentiment analysis" model that the company says identifies hate speech, slander and threats.

That differs from social networks like Facebook or Twitter, which generally rely on users to flag objectionable material.

For anonymity, Candid assigns pseudonyms -- "HyperMantis," "Sincere Giraffe," "GroundedTurtle" -- that stick with the same user only in an individual thread. You may post as "DiligentBunny" in one thread and "IntuitiveSpider" in another. The app doesn't collect IP addresses and encrypts data.

It also has a rumor alert, aimed to weed out fabrications but allow news leaks and insider information to rise to the surface. The AI-based moderation system identifies rumors and then tries to verify them with a web and Twitter search. If the statement can't be validated, the app prompts users to mark the statement as "true" or "rumor."