TechWeb

White House, Facebook, MTV Fight Cyberbullying

Sep 26, 2011 (12:09 PM EDT)

Read the Original Article at http://www.informationweek.com/news/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=231602176


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Top federal IT officials have teamed with Facebook and other private-sector organizations in an effort to respond to cyberbullying, a problem that increasingly is plaguing young people as they use social media.

U.S. CTO Aneesh Chopra and President Obama's Cybersecurity Coordinator Howard Schmidt are encouraging social-networking platforms and application developers to create new tools to "prioritize reports of abuse and corresponding interventions that might mitigate an escalating situation," according a White House blog post by the two IT officials.

Last year the White House held a summit to discuss ways to prevent cyberbullying and, in response, Facebook and MTV--the latter in collaboration with MIT--are working on answers to the problem.

[ The feds also are looking to technology to help with education. Find out more in White House Targets Innovative Education Technologies ]

Cyberbullying--in which information and communication technologies are used to support behavior that is intended to harm others--is becoming an increasing problem among young people who sometimes find themselves the target of ridicule through social media in the same way it might happen in other social circles.

The suicide of teenager Megan Meier in 2006 first shed serious light on the problem. Meier took her own life just three weeks before her 14th birthday after some schoolmates created a fake identity to befriend her and then engage in malicious communication via MySpace.

The work between MTV and the MIT Media Lab tries to drill down on cyberbullying dynamics via a Web and iPhone app called Over the Line?, which allows young people to share and rate personal stories of how technology is complicating social interactions, according to the blog post. People can share their stories via the application and others are invited to weigh in on whether the interaction has crossed the cyberbullying line.

More than 9,000 users have submitted stories that have generated 325,000 ratings, information that stakeholders said is valuable in learning about the digital ethics of today's youth, according to the post.

To this end, MIT is using finds from data compiled from Over the Line? to help develop fast and effective responses to cyberbullying and try to prevent incidents before they happen, according to the post. MTV and MIT also are encouraging other researchers to learn by studying this data.

For its part, Facebook said it is investing in research grants to come up with response and preventative measures for cyberbullying. Last month the social networking company pledged $200,000 in a Digital Research Grant for ideas to prevent and respond to cyberbullying.

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