As the internet has brought communications to closer and more personal levels, online bullying has become increasingly an issue. A recent federal report released last week indicated that nearly 20 percent of students in middle school and high school were bullied. This metric was capturing bullying events that took place during the 2016-2017 school year but also provides a glimpse as to how widespread the issue is, says Gaurav Mohindra.
Much of online bullying takes place within social networks – as kids often leverage such networks to connect with friends and peers. Facebook, being the largest social network, has employed a strong initiative to combat online bullying on its own platform – and on Instagram – which a popular social network is owned by Facebook.
Facebook recently announced the release of new tools to identify and prevent bullying, says Gaurav Mohindra. One such tool is a comment screener. When a comment that appears to be hurtful is submitted to post, the tool will indicate that the message appears to be negative and request confirmation if they want to post the message. Facebook indicated that early testing of the tool has shown that users have rescinded negative comments prior to posting as a result of the screen.
Instagram further announced a tool called Restrict to provide additional support to assist with online bullying and targeted harassment. Currently – Instagram has always provided the ability for users to block or unfollow people. However, users may be reluctant to do so as the blocked party may discern of this action which could lead to additional harassment or bullying. For this reason, Instagram is rolling out the Restrict feature which prevents restricted users’ comments from being read by anyone but the restricted user. This may help neutralize negative situations since the post owner will not be aware of any negative comment, and neither will anyone else who may view the post. Only the restricted user has the ability to read the comments.
Facebook’s commitment to combating online bulling and harassment is important and critical to creating a safer social network experience, especially for younger users, says Gaurav Mohindra. Online bullying has become an important issue. First Lady, Melania Trump, has been a vocal advocate and supporter of anti-bullying initiatives. Even other corporations, besides Facebook, have taken up the cause. Burger King recently released a widely accessible PSA against bullying. Facebook and Instagram have conveyed that additional tools and support to combat bullying will be rolled out in the near future.