The Story

How I Built A Little Tool That Keeps Millions Of People Safe Online - The Story 📚


This is the story behind HumanFocusedAI.

A tool that scans the web and reports content that is dangerous for people with photosensitive epilepsy to view.

To properly tell this story, I'll have to rewind all the way back to 2019. Back when I didn't even know what epilepsy was.




Idea 💡

So.. most people usually get their big ideas in a Hollywood storyworthy way.

Walking down Brooklyn bridge. Or lying down on beach in Bali. Or backpacking through Europe. You get the point.

For me it was actually super boring. I was just drinking my morning coffee and stumbled upon this article.


How crazy. Animated GIFs and videos on social media can trigger seizures!

Why does no one know about this?! And why doesn't anyone talk about this?!

I didn't even know what photosensitive epilepsy was. No one from my family or my social circle was challenged by it, so I was never exposed to it.

However, the fact that something so fundamental like "access to the internet" was a minefield and dangerous for some people was infuriating.

I start Googling.

"For sure there is something to protect these people!"

I continue Googling.

"Ok, this is crazy but there is literally nothing."

I will build something myself. I thought it would be easy to build. But I couldn't have been more wrong...




Ups and downs 💔

Building this bot was the hardest piece of engineering I've ever done in my life.

I had to reopen my dusty university books, call university Professors and Doctors, study research papers and established guidelines regarding photosensitive epilepsy and screens.

The algorithm ended up being mostly based on the work of leading scientists in photosensitive epilepsy, like Dr. Harding and Professor Binnie from King's College London, as well as the guidelines of Ofcom and WCAG20.

But that's boring. And I'm not here to bore you to death with technical stuff. If you are so interested about it, I wrote about them separately here.

I just want you to know that it was very difficult. And I gave up multiple times in the process.

What I thought would be a little weekend project ended up being a three month Odyssey.

And I'm not talking three months of coding on nights and weekends.

I'm talking coding from the moment you wake up till the moment you fall asleep. And thinking about bugs and code in your sleep.

The only thing that kept me going was that I knew this would help people stay safe and my girlfriend's encouragement.




Version 1.0 👨‍💻

But at last I was ready to show to the world what I had built!

I posted it on a few places but even though it reached many people, it didn't reach that many people challenged by photosensitive epilepsy.

I post it on Reddit. Get banned for self promotion.

Damn it. Well, let's slowly promote it then.

However, v1 ultimately failed in what would be a slow death for several reasons:
1. People had to find out about the product
2. People had to understand what it does
3. People had to understand what a browser extension was
4. Because every client would ping the API multiple times per second, the servers would
constantly crash and I had to add a $5/mo price tag to stop people with epilepsy trying out the product for fun
5. People had to install it on their browser
6. It couldn't work on mobile apps

All of the above created too much friction for it to work.

Plus, I am not funded or part of any organization, non profit or corporation. It's just me by myself.




Version 2.0 💻

So, let me introduce v2 now and why I think it's superior! 🤖

So this little bad boy:
1. Scans the web by itself
2. Scans the few most popular websites (Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, Facebook, etc) that amount to almost all of the internet's web traffic
3. Instantly reports dangerous content
4. No one has to install anything
5. No one has to understand how it work
6. No one has to even know about it
7. It just works. And provides value for millions of people




Vision ✨

As of now, our bot works perfectly for Twitter.

Here are some things I want to add and improve in the near future:

Support all the major platforms, like Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, etc.

Start scanning films and shows on Netflix and create a database with safe and dangerous movies.

Improve and bring back the browser extension (v1) as an extra layer of security.

And much more.




What's next 💜

I would also like to build more tools for accessibility.

Tools that help people navigate the web. Equal access to the internet should be a right, not a privilege.

Tools for people that suffer from blindness, deafness, Parkinson's, etc are some things I have in mind.

All this technology will eventually become open source.

If anyone wants to contribute and build these things with me, just shoot me a message!




PS: You can also view this story in a tweet thread format here and here.







Made with 💜 by Alex