A new partnership between Facebook and Time Warner aims to expand the companies’ individual efforts to prevent online bullying. The initiative, called “Stop Bullying: Speak Up,” will combine broadcast, print, online, and social media outlets to get parents, teachers, and youth speaking about cyber bullying prevention.
“Nothing is more important than the safety of the people [who] use our site,” said Andrew Noyes, manager of public policy communications at Facebook. “Online safety is a responsibility shared among parents, teachers, teens, policy makers, and services like Facebook.”
The announcement came after a recent White House Convention on Bullying Prevention. The campaign will include a town hall meeting with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, which will focus on bullying issues and teaching adults how to cope with it. It also will coincide with Facebook’s Social Media Pledge App that encourages educators, parents, and kids to make a personal commitment to help stop bullying. Also featured will be Cartoon Network’s bystander-focused bullying prevention resources and expansive coverage of bullying from Time Inc. publications.
“I think it’s important to remember that activity on Facebook mirrors what’s going on offline—and we haven’t ‘solved’ bullying in offline contexts—so it will take some time to address it online, too,” Noyes said.
A 2007 study by Stanford University master’s student Debbie Heimowitz found that more than 60 percent of students had been victims of cyber bullying, up from 42 percent in a 2004 study done by i-SAFE.org. Online bullying became nationally recognized after a number of teen suicides that stemmed from alleged harassment online, now termed “bullycides.” According to the Centers for Disease Control, 23 percent of online bullying occurs via websites such as Facebook, while 67 percent of electronic aggression, the largest percentage, occurs through instant messaging.
This latest partnership is the next step after a series of initiatives from both companies this year. Facebook has released a “Family Safety Center” and “Social Report Tool” that allows people to report bullies or harassment to parents, teachers, or other authority figures.
Time Inc. partnered with CNN and Cartoon Network last year in a multi-platform media campaign which included the Anderson Cooper hosted “Bullying: No Escape; an AC 360 Special Report with PEOPLE and Cartoon Network.”
“We recently created the social reporting feature to help address bullying and other abuses on the site. We’ve always offered a comprehensive system for people to report content to us, which has been effective at keeping inappropriate content off the site,” said Noyes.
“Now we’ve added a unique feature, developed with safety experts, that lets people also report content to someone more in their support system, like a parent or a teacher, who may be able to address the issue more directly. It is our hope that features like this will not only remove the offensive content but also help people get to the root of the problem.”
Facebook regularly partners with groups that have an interest in the prevention of online bullying. Its Safety Advisory Board consists of the Family Online Safety Institute, Connect Safely, the National Network to End Domestic Violence, Childnet International, and WiredSafety. It also has an LGBT Network of Support and has worked with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
“We hope our tools, features, and awareness campaigns will make a difference,” said Noyes. “You can block a bully on Facebook, which cuts all ties with them. There is no such mechanism to do this in offline world. We prioritize reports of bullying and we will disable the accounts of serious offenders.”