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Re-wording cyber bullying

Reword is one of the latest tools to tackle online hate speech and cyber bullying and is celebrating its first year as part of the National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence. The online tool is a partnership between Headspace, the National Youth Mental Health Foundation, and communications agency Leo Burnett Melbourne.

There has been increasing attention placed on combatting forms of victimisation online. It has been estimated that approximately 463,000 instances of cyberbullying occur amongst young Australians every year. 

“Evidence is clear around long term detrimental effects of young people and bullying– anxiety, depression, lack of school attendance. Most people experience more than one type of bullying. It’s now harder to get away from it through cyber bullying,” Vikki Ryall, Head of Clinical Practice for Headspace, told The Point Magazine.

The most recent research released by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) in July 2014, highlights how young people are now engaging online, the devices they use and the services and activities that draw them online.

Research from June 2015, showed over 935,000 teens had gone online in the previous four weeks, which is 82 per cent of all teens. Six in ten online teens streamed video content on sites such as YouTube.

Online tool Reword works by identifying cruel or intimidating language in real time, prompting users to reconsider their potentially hurtful message or social media post before hitting send. Reword is a Google Chrome extension that interfaces with social media. It what highlights potential cruel or intimidating language and changes the colour to red and puts a line through that word. A message pops up encouraging people to question if they want to use that.

“We found 80 percent of time in our pilot sample studies, young people changed the words they used. It was a pretty extraordinary outcome,” said Ryall. The app has been introduced to over 250 schools across Australia, and since it launched, they have received 700,000 downloads. 

“(It is) absolutely important social media groups get involved. Facebook and so forth are increasingly responsive to their responsibility. The tricky thing is staying ahead."

– Vikki Ryall, Head of Clinical Practice for Headspace

There is growing investment in online tools as social media platforms are taking more responsibility and accountability for the role they play. Last year YouTube pledged $1 million and its charity arm Google.org has committed a further $2 million to help tackle online hate.

Online trolling is a growing concern in the world of digital advertising. Brand safety is becoming harder to protect in digital environments, especially when advertisers enter user-generated spaces such as YouTube. Last month, major UK brands, including the UK government, boycotted technology giant Google ads after their advertising was placed alongside undesirable content, including extremist material and hate speech. The global advertiser boycott of YouTube has extended to the US, and in Australia, Telstra has pulled its ads from YouTube citing concerns about brand protection.  

Google’s Samantha Yorke has previously told The Point Magazine, “No one sector of society can solve this problem on their own. The social media industry contributes technical smarts and platforms that reach global audiences to broader efforts to counter hate speech. Our role is to develop policies that prohibit hate speech and content that incites violence and to enforce these policies rigorously by removing offending content when we are made aware of it.” 

Ryall said it is vital that social media groups get involved in the mental health awareness and countering hate speech.

“(It is) absolutely important social media groups get involved. Facebook and so forth are increasingly responsive to their responsibility. The tricky thing is staying ahead. We do partnership work with Facebook and they have done amazing stuff on cyber safety. It would be great if apps like this could be automatically built into snapchat, or other popular channels.”

 Image from YouTube Content Creators Bootcamp 2016

The Point

One of the latest tools to tackle online hate speech and cyber bullying

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