The National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded a grant to Rutgers University to develop a system of "automatic detection" of cyberbullying. Rutgers University has received $117,102 in funding so far for its project. According to the grant, 40 percent of American teenagers have reported being the victims of cyberbullying.
"This is especially worrying as the multiple studies have reported that the victims of cyberbullying often deal with psychiatric and psychosomatic disorders," the grant states. "Specifically, this research will advance the state of the art in cyberbullying detection beyond textual analysis by also giving due attention to the social relationships in which these bullying messages are exchanged. A higher accuracy at detection would allow for better mitigation of the cyberbullying phenomenon and may help improve the lives of thousands of victims who are cyberbullied each year."
The project will used text mining - searching for keywords - as well as other methods of analyzing the relationships between the adolescents who send and receive hurtful cyber messages. The grant language suggests that the researchers understand that research needs to go deeper and will hopefully be used to detect cyberbullying before it begins.
"By analyzing the social relationship graph between users and deriving features such as number of friends, network embeddedness, and relationship centrality, the project will validate (and potentially refine) multiple theories in social science literature and assimilate those findings to create better cyberbullying detectors," the grant states. "The project will yield new, comprehensive models and algorithms that can be used for cyberbullying detection in automated settings."
The project, expected to extend until June 2017, is headed by Vivek K. Singh, an assistant professor in the School of Communication and Information at Rutgers University.
"I have worked on multiple projects including designing a novel media sharing application, detecting patterns in large scale Twitter feeds, and analyzing community behavior in social media to design mechanisms to 'nudge' people into suitable behaviors," Singh states on his website.
The issue of mean online messages has gotten more attention is recent years. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) maintains a website on which Americans can report online bullying. President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama hosted the first ever White House conference on cyberbullying in 2011. "If there is one goal of this conference, it is to dispel the myth that bullying is just a harmless rite of passage or an inevitable part of growing up," Obama said in 2011, according to CNN.
Some methods of combating cyberbullying have raised privacy concerns. According to FOX 2 (an affiliate in St. Louis), an law passed in Illinois states that with a "reasonable cause to believe that a student's account on a social network contains evidence that a student has violated a school's disciplinary rule of policy," school administrators can demand a student's password to personal use social media.
Australia is looking to create an "Office of the Children's e-Safety Commissioner," according to The Register. The office would be able to fine social media networks like Facebook or Twitter AU$17,000 for each day a post deemed "seriously threatening, seriously intimidating, seriously harassing, or seriously humiliating" remains online.
Australian senator Cory Bernardi thinks that extreme legislation isn't the only answer. According to The Daily Mail, the liberal senator said, "Ultimately, children need to be taught a bit of resilience in some ways. There is not always going to be someone there to pick up the hurt feelings."