Intervention Tech: Is This a Thing Yet?

An illustration of human lungs created in the shape of tree roots and branches with the word, “breathe” below it.

We’ve recently noticed an interesting trend has started to happen, which we’re calling intervention tech. This is specific tech that intervenes to help people live more mindfully conscious lives in their digital interactions.

Here are a two examples of intervention tech:

An image of a smartphone screen with the Own It App messaging box on the screen.

Own It App // A few weeks ago the BBC launched a digital wellbeing app for children called Own It. This app monitors messaging apps and online interactions to give advice and support. It does this is by adding a software keyboard to a smartphone. Using an algorithm, the app catches certain phrases that would be considered sensitive data or an “upsetting message.”

An example in the photo above is someone who has typed, “Hate you all” in the message text box; the app then creates a popup that says, “It sounds like you might be angry?” Children can then be directed to a parent to talk about how they are feeling instead of lashing out online. (It should be noted that this app strives to keep children’s messages private and is not a parent monitoring app.)


Instagram Anti-Bullying Tool // This summer, Instagram launched AI that detects when users type comments that are similar to those which have been frequently reported. When the AI catches a phrase, a popup appears that says, “Are you sure you want to send this?” If the user clicks on “Learn More” a notification says, “We are asking people to rethink comments that seem similar to others that have been reported.” Instagram is hoping users will rethink and rephrase their comments and curb bullying. The company says, “This intervention gives people a chance to reflect and undo their comment and prevents the recipient from receiving the harmful comment notification.” Instagram has also rolled out new tech to empower the users who are being bullied to stand up for themselves and restrict interactions with those targeting them.

Some may see intervention tech as trying to control a person’s freedom of speech. Others may see it as a helpful pause where users are able to regroup and decide what they really want to put out into the world. Much like a deep breath affects our ability to connect with ourselves, perhaps intervention tech is providing that digital breath for users to consciously decide how they would like to best express themselves.

We applaud the efforts of those who are creating intervention tech and look forward to seeing where this kind of #mindfultech continues to expand.

Internal images from BBC and Instagram. Feature image by Matt Willey in collaboration with Giles Revell.

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