Postdoc Wins Outstanding Paper Award at ACL Workshop on Online Abuse and Harms

Author: Notre Dame Technology Ethics Center

Georgina Curto Rex speaking in front of a podium
Georgina Curto Rex presenting her and her coauthors’ paper at the 2023 ACL Workshop on Online Abuse and Harms in Toronto.

Georgina Curto Rex, a postdoctoral fellow at the Notre Dame Technology Ethics Center (ND TEC), and several coauthors were awarded one of two outstanding paper awards at ACL 2023 (61st Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics) within the Workshop on Online Abuse and Harms. The meeting took place in Toronto in July.

Their study, which was exploratory in nature, focused on aporophobia, a term coined by philosopher Adela Cortina meaning “rejection, aversion, fear, and contempt for the poor.” Titled “Aporophobia: An Overlooked Type of Toxic Language Targeting the Poor,” the paper examined several months’ worth of English-language posts on Twitter for terms and topics that regularly surface in tweets about people who are either “poor” or “rich.”

This analysis demonstrated the presence of aporophobic attitudes, with the 100 words that had the highest association with the group “poor” including many terms related to alcohol and drug abuse and mental disorders. The research team went on to show that most current natural language processing (NLP) models designed to identify social biases—for instance, discrimination against women or immigrants—in online text are much less successful at doing so when it comes to language disparaging poor people.

In calling for attention to aporophobia to be more explicitly added to NLP research on toxic language, the team noted that it should not be considered as wholly separate from but rather interrelated with racism, sexism, and xenophobia.

Curto joined ND TEC in summer 2022 after earning her Ph.D. in AI ethics in a joint program offered by the Universities of Ramon LLull (IQS School of Management), Deusto, and Pontificia Comillas (ICADE).

She is spending summer 2023 as a visiting scholar at the Kavli Center for Ethics, Science, and the Public at the University of California, Berkeley, before returning to Notre Dame for the fall semester. Her position at Notre Dame is generously supported by the Notre Dame-IBM Tech Ethics Lab.

Curto’s coauthors on the paper are Svetlana Kiritchenko, Isar Nejadgholi, and Kathleen Fraser, all of the National Research Council Canada.