Now what would your mother say if you were trending on twitter for the wrong reasons?
Image via flickr user Pete Simon
When Trevor Noah was named the heir to Jon Stewart’s throne as the next host of the Daily Show, it took less than 24 hours for the Internet’s private eye collective to dig up a mound of dirt from the innermost alcoves of his Twitter feed. Noah was lucky enough that his future employer, Comedy Central, had his back. Ethan Czahor was not as fortunate. Czahor lasted 36 hours as Jeb Bush’s chief technology officer before losing his job due to a series of tweets that resurfaced out of context.
His experience inspired him to create Clear, an app designed to trawl through decades of social media detritus in order to search and delete statements that can be interpreted as offensive, insensitive, or politically incorrect.
Image via Clear beta website
The app works primarily by highlighting watchwords, which, besides the traditional obscenities and vulgarities, also include innocuous terms that depend on context, such as “black,” or “gay.” Posts are also analyzed for their tone and sentimentality using IBM’s Watson supercomputer. Clear’s algorithms are still being fine-tuned, and currently err on the side of caution. Statements that catch the app’s eye are compiled into a list, where the user can then go and choose to delete. Deleting a post on Clear removes it from the source as well.
The app, released today on the iTunes App Store, requests access to one’s social media profiles on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. The verification process locks out third parties who might use the app to snoop on other people’s digital histories.
“This could happen to anyone in any field—it doesn’t have to be politics—every millennial is now entering the workforce, and maybe even a senior position, and everything that they’ve said online for the last 10 years is still there, and that’s a new thing for this generation,” Czahor told Time.
Clear’s website asks, “Remember what you posted when you were mad at your boyfriend? Back when you had a handful of followers, or after a glass of wine?”
Better for you to stumble upon an embarrassing blast from the past before someone else does, or worse, it ends up trending next on Twitter.