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ALLI: Stop Sexist Speech

June 7, 2020

Q: What is ALLI?

A: ALLI is an extension to the popular workspace messaging platform, Slack. ALLI is your ally in identifying and stopping sexist speech in the workplace, both by enabling people to be upstanders and by automatically calling out sexist comments.

Q: How does ALLI work?

A: ALLI implements a host of features. Using slash commands, any user in the channel can anonymously flag a conversation as one of ten different types of sexist speech, which can then be supported anonymously by any members of the channel. Anonymity allows people to speak up where otherwise they might feel judged or silenced—it allows the group at large to express solidarity against sexist speech. Another feature of ALLI is auto callouts, where ALLI will automatically flag content that includes common pet names for women or derogatory language. ALLI’s homepage stores metrics on the toxicity of a slack workplace, as measured by the frequency of backlash and auto callouts as well as support given to ALLI’s messages. A public dashboard tallying these incidents gives administrators a better sense of the toxicity of their workplace and can spur them to integrate new policies or training. The dashboard also holds individuals accountable for their behaviors and prevents them from using ALLI as a joke. A new feature is currently in the works: it will allow users to anonymously flag specific messages for further action, including directly notifying a workspace admin or sending them a message through ALLI about why their speech was unacceptable.

Q: What inspired this project?

A: According to a 2017 study by the Pew Research Center, 42% of working women in the United States say they have faced sex discrimination in the workplace. Women face all sorts of obstacles—they may be passed over for important assignments or treated as if they’re less competent than their male counterparts. Women are also subject to misogynistic language and comments, and it’s often difficult to speak up about these issues—especially if women are a minority in the space. Since only 20% of computer science professionals are women, tech spaces can often feel unwelcoming to women in the field. An app like ALLI can help the tech community, and workspaces in every field, become more aware of the everyday sexism in their workspace and reduce that kind of speech. ALLI’s functionality does not discriminate based on the status of who is making sexist comments, and allows anyone to flag any comment without fear of repercussion, which can spur conversations which might be unlikely otherwise. ALLI also empowers people to be upstanders beyond the app by giving them experience standing up in a lower-stakes manner.

“ALLI was built for MLH Summer League’s Hack Girl Summer Hackathon on June 19–21 2020. Since the extension was created in only a weekend, there is a lot in the works for making ALLI better. In version two, we hope to flesh out the report feature for individual messages as well as integrate machine learning (natural language processing) that can flag problematic messages.”

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Author Bio:

Anna and Sarah just finished their first year at Stanford University, where they are pursuing CS coursework. They have a budding track record of making cool things together: as their final project for a Computer Systems From the Ground Up class this year, they built a hologram projector!

Anna is a prospective Computer Science major. She works for a South Florida non-profit organization called Code/Art, whose mission is to increase the number of girls studying computer science by delighting and inspiring them with the creative possibilities of computer programming. She is spending the summer teaching a virtual coding class for elementary schoolers and designing an online hub for Code/Art.

Sarah is a prospective Symbolic Systems major, which is an interdisciplinary course of study combining computer science, psychology, linguistics, and philosophy. As a summer intern in a Stanford energy lab, she is currently building out the technical interface to configure and view metrics from a remote-controlled sustainable greenhouse in rural India. Other recent projects include development of an iOS app to navigate a city without a car and photojournalism for the Stanford Daily.

Haroon Choudery

Haroon is the Co-founder and Executive Director at A.I. For Anyone. He holds a Master’s degree in Information and Data Science from UC Berkeley and a Bachelor's degree from Penn State University. He currently works at Arthur.ai as a Product Marketing Manager and has previously worked at firms—including Deloitte Consulting, Mark Cuban Companies, PayPal, Facebook, and NASA—at the intersection of product and data science. He is also a 2011 Gates Millennium Scholar.

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