Software developed to curtail online bullying

Software that analyzes and translates slang for teachers is being used by more than 1,000 British schools that are monitoring pupils' online communication for bullying and self-harm. The software is part of an education package, according to its developers. The software has also been used in the US. Elsewhere, a program called Algorithm has been developed to arrest antisocial behavior. Algorithm is designed as a kind of preventive measure, as it reminds people to be civil.

A constantly updated dictionary that includes words that most adults would not understand is used by the software. Acronyms such as "gnoc" (get naked on camera) and "dirl" (die in real life) and words such as "Bio-Oil," a commercial product which can be used by children who self-harm to reduce the appearance of scarring, are included. More conventional vocabulary used in bullying is also monitored in the program.

Developed by Impero, the program has been successful at alerting teachers to potential suicides, according to developer Jonathan Valentine. He said that dealing with misbehavior was the original plan for the software, but focusing on e-safety proved to be a better idea.

"We usually leave it to schools to create their own lists of words, but we decided to create our own by going into schools and speaking to students directly. The list can be used by any school across the country, but can also be added to if necessary," said Valentine.

Researchers with MIT Media Lab's Software Agents Group have developed an algorithm that can detect bullying based on linguistic patterns with the aim of combating antisocial behavior. Algorithm is designed to work in conjunction with social media sites as a kind of preventive measure, according to designer Karthik Dinakar.

The anti-bullying app is already in use at MTV's social site for teens, A Thin Line, which has taken up the cause with its "Draw Your Line" campaign against "digital abuse." Parents can download the app onto their kids' smartphones. The hope is that the app will remind users of the basic rules of civility and appeal to their better nature, which might well reduce the amount and severity of online bullying even if it can't eliminate it altogether.

01 26, 2014
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