Like many big tech companies, Facebook files a lot of patents. But its latest one, which was granted in February, is raising a few eyebrows; it’s a piece of software that scans the social media site for emerging terms and stores them in a “social glossary.”
As reported by Business Insider UK, the patented system will discover new textual terms by searching for neologisms – a relatively new term, word, or phrase that may be in the process of becoming more commonly used, but hasn’t yet been widely adopted.
Once the system identifies new terms that are starting to become more popular, it will check they aren’t already in the dictionary before adding them to the social glossary. As is the case with new words and phrases, they can sometimes fall out of popularity. If this happens, the software will remove them.
Facebook says in the patent that the system will look out for “slang, terms of art, portmanteaus, syllabic abbreviations, abbreviations, acronyms, names, nicknames, re-purposed words or phrases, or any other type of coined word or phrase.”
Exactly what plans Facebook has in store for the system is unclear, but it’s been suggested that it could be used to improve its predictive text feature, which often doesn’t recognise slang words.
Facebook has used the example of ‘Rickrolled’ – the term given for a prank when someone is intentionally misdirected to a video of 80’s pop star Rick Astley’s hit ‘Never going to give you up' – as a term that would be added to the social glossary.
I’m not ‘throwing shade’ (I think that’s right) at Facebook, but maybe the company could have saved its patent and just copied the contents of the Urban Dictionary into its social glossary.