Social Networks Adapt to Prevent Cyberbullying
Steven White

In 2011 alone, one million children were harassed, threatened or subjected to acts of cyberbullying on Facebook. What’s worse, only one in six parents knew their children were bullied over social networks. According to a study by Pew Internet that examined the behavior of teenagers online, 76 percent of teens are active on social networking sites, proving that Facebook and Twitter are ideal avenues for engagement among today’s youth. Not only are more teens using social networks, they are using such networks more frequently for longer periods, and they are sharing more content than ever before, which raises the need for eliminating cyberbullying.

For example, as the company continues to grow in size, Facebook, which has a reported 93 percent usage rate among teens, is an increasing platform for cyberbullying. According to reports from January of this year, Facebook is set to exceed 1 billion users before 2013. Given this rapid growth in population, especially in younger demographics, a need for user protection has created discussion and policy changes within the company.

In light of cyberbullying concerns, Facebook is now giving users the appropriate tools to better communicate their feelings and alleviate the concerns and conflicts that arise with feeling bullied on the Web. Gone are the days of the complicated “Report” feature. Now, users can simply click “This post is a problem” to report harmful material, whether it is textual or an image. This feature reaches outside the norm of reporting or flagging material as inappropriate due to nudity or profane visual content. Users can report posts that shine a negative light on them or are upsetting and are then asked to categorize which way the post is harmful to them to determine the issue and its magnitude. After that, the posts and users are then transferred to the appropriate people to help solve the problem.

This is just one example of how social networks are beginning to adapt to an easier, user-friendly approach to reducing and ultimately eliminating cyberbullying so their communities are safe for teens.The need for additional change is apparent. However, what is not so apparent is the ability to address this need. In an ideal world, cyberbullying would be eradicated entirely. The current solution for monitoring the problem now relies heavily on human moderation. But given the millions of uploads to social networks on a daily basis, this approach is neither feasible nor cost-efficient. What can be accomplished, however, is incorporating a technology that is able to handle this task in a cost-efficient manner that will not compromise the accuracy and speed of the moderation process. This is where new technologies like ImageVision’s can play a pivotal role. (Editor’s Note: The writer is a principal of ImageVision)

Serving as a frontline of defense, ImageVision technology scans for inappropriate language in text that indicates any traces of cyberbullying. The technology is triggered by certain key words and can seamlessly run in the background of social network usage. This occurs automatically and in real-time, as the content is being shared. Content that is regarded as “safe” loads immediately to the network with no further action taken. Suspect videos, images and text are “flagged” for human moderators to review.

By saving human moderation for only the suspect content – not for all content – social networks can serve their users more efficiently and slash operations costs up to 80 percent, all while delivering a more enjoyable, teen-safe social networking experience. Photobucket is already employing this technology to protect its users with strong results.

Nobody deserves to be abused online. Period. Emerging technologies cab help monitor cyberbullying, but it all comes down to the person engaging in the activity. With the increasing usage of social media among teens and available technologies like ImageVision’s, cyberbullying can be put at bay.

Steven W. White is the President and CEO of ImageVision and the creator of a visual recognition and image and video filtering technology with market applications for enterprise, mobile and social networking. Steven White’s career and passion revolve around online security and contextual content delivery. As a result of his dedication to promoting online safety and educating parents of the various forms of digital abuse, Steven White has become a nationally renowned expert on the issues of “cyberbullying” and “sexting.”  With nearly all 50 states battling the effects of these issues among youth, and as a parent of four children himself, Steven White has made it his company’s priority to support legislation that deters and educates citizens about these issues that could help save the lives and reputations of youth all over the country.