Americans are increasingly using code words known as “algospeak” to evade detection by content moderation technology, especially when posting about things that are controversial or may break platform rules.




Before you read

replace the words 1-10 in the article extracts with the words in bold below:

sinister                       looming          ubiquitous           unfold                  in the wake of

police             surged            uptick                         pitch               workarounds

If you’ve seen people posting about “camping” on social media, there’s a chance they’re not talking about how to 1. set up a tent or which National Parks to visit. The term recently became “algospeak” for something entirely different: discussing abortion-related issues 2. as a consequence of the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade.

Social media users are increasingly using codewords, emojis and deliberate typos—so-called “algospeak”—to avoid detection by apps’ moderation AI when posting content that is sensitive or might break their rules. (…)

More than half of Americans say they’ve seen an uptick in algospeak as polarizing political, cultural or global events 3. take place, according to new Telus International data from a survey of 1,000 people in the U.S. last month. (…)

We’ve come a long way since “pr0n” and the eggplant emoji. These ever-evolving 4. evasions present a growing challenge for tech companies and the third-party contractors they hire to help them 5. control content. While machine learning can spot overt violative material, like hate speech, it can be far harder for AI to read between the lines on euphemisms or phrases that to some seem innocuous, but in another context, have a more 6. evil meaning.

The “camping” references emerged within 24 hours of the Supreme Court ruling and 7. rose over the next couple of weeks, according to Hanna. But “camping” as an algospeak phenomenon petered out “because it became so 8. omnipresent that it wasn’t really a codeword anymore,” she explained. That’s typically how algospeak works: “It will spike, it will garner a lot of attention, it’ll start moving into a kind of memeification, and [it] will sort of die out.” (…)

Telus International also expects to see a(n) 9. boost in algospeak online around the 10. coming midterm elections.

Now read the article and check your answers: 



ANSWERS: 1. pitch; 2. unfold; 3. workarounds ; 4. police; 5. sinister; 6. surged; 7. Ubiquitous; 8. uptick; 9. looming




  • to circumvent – to avoid something, especially cleverly or illegally
  • to sidestep – to avoid
  • overt – done, shown openly
  • volative –  liable to lead to sudden change or violence
  • innocuous – harmless
  • to clamp down -to make a determined attempt to stop people doing something bad or illegal
  • to peter out – to gradually stop or disappear
  • to garner – to get or earn something valuable or respected, often with difficulty
  • contentious – a contentious issue causes a lot of disagreement or arguments
  • to stymie – informal – prevent or hinder the progress of



Practice makes perfect

Watch the video (00:15-1:40)

and complete the gaps:


(…) Started a website in 2005 with a few friend, called Reddit.com. It’s what you’d call a social news website; basically the democratic front page of the best 1. ……. on the web. You find some interesting content – say, a Ted talk – 2. ……….. to Reddit, and a community of your 3. ………. will vote up if they like it, down if they don’t. That creates the front page. It’s always rising, falling, always changing; but a half million people visit it every day. But this isn’t about Reddit. This is actually about discovering new things that 4. …….. up on the web. In the last four years, we’ve seen all kinds of memes, all kinds of trends get born right on our front page. But this isn’t about Reddit itself, it’s actually about humpback whales. Well, technically, it’s about Greenpeace, which is an environmental organization that wanted to stop the Japanese government on their whaling campaign. These whales were getting killed; they wanted to put an 5.…. to it. One of the ways they wanted to do it was to put a tracking 6. …….. inside one of these humpback whales. But to personify the movement, they wanted to 7. ……. it. So in true web fashion, they put together a 8. ….., where they had a bunch of very erudite, very thoughtful, cultured names. Anahi – I believe this is the Farsi word for ”immortal.” Kaimana – I think this means ”divine power of the ocean” in a Polynesian language. And then there was this: ”Mr Splashy Pants.” And this was a special name. Mister Pants, or ”Splashy” to his friends, was very popular on the Internet. In fact, someone on Reddit thought, ”What a great thing, we should all vote this up.” And Redditors 9. ……… and all agreed. So the voting started. We actually got behind it ourselves; we changed our logo for the day from the alien to Splashy, to help the 10. ……. . (…)



ANSWERS: 1. stuff; 2. submit; 3. peers; 4. pop; 5. end; 6. chip; 7. name; 8. poll; 9. responded; 10. cause


Use the words in bold (make sure their form is correct) from the first exercise to fill in the gaps in the questions below. Answer them.


1. Have you ever been in a place that felt ……..?

2. When was the last time you felt a sudden ……. of joy?

3. Have you ever …….. a tent?

4. Would you say some actor/celebrity has become ………. recently?


Key: 1. sinister; 2. surge; 3. pitched; 4. ubiquitous



Explore more to create your own teaching-learning experience!


How harmful is social media?

There’s a general sense that it’s bad for society – which may be right. But studies offer surprisingly few easy answers.