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Can a button beat cyberbullies?

November 18th, 2009
04:22 PM ET

In this Internet age, the playground has gone digital; and with it, the bullies.

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/11/18/art.facebook.jpg caption="Facebook has been urged to take action."]

Now a senior British police officer responsible for preventing online bullying claims the world's biggest social networking sites are failing to combat abuse.

Jim Gamble, head of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (Ceop) Center, said Facebook and MySpace, which between them have more than 500 million users, could work harder to stamp out bullying.

He wants the sites to follow the example of Bebo, which has adopted an initiative whereby children who fear they are at risk can press a panic button. This allows users to report online abuse, bullying and illegal activity.

But will the button really make a difference, or will it induce panic rather than preventing it?

And will it deter children from taking their problems to the adults in their life, thinking they can combat the problems alone?

We want to know if you think the initiative is a step in the right direction, and how you'd like to see social networking sites beat bullying online.

Post your comments below and we’ll include the best ones in tonight’s show.

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Filed under:  General
soundoff (4 Responses)
  1. rarko

    well i think that social site should have policy of some parts of their sites that would tech them that violence is not going to help them in their lives

    November 18, 2009 at 5:08 pm | Reply
  2. ED

    Successful anti-bully tools in the hands of users depend on two things:

    (1) tools must promote a positive spin, IE great marketing campaign, and

    (2) tools are only as good as the consequences. Can we get facebook, my space and twitter all lined up to say "we will delete posts that the NO-BULL community deems offensive AND we will track repeat offenders."

    So, using a very simple e-points model, you create a community of raters - a lot like Yahoo Answers or Experts.com. the currency of the realm is "points". No real money need change hands. Raters agree however NOT to be anonymous (inside the rating world) and to have their work reviewed by other raters.

    Then the big sites add a widget. This is where the marketing campaign is crucial.

    Is the widget a little FOOT and the slogan is "put you foot down – stamp out bullying"
    Is the widget a bull's Head and the slogan is SAY NO to BULL!
    Is the widget a circle slash NOT NICE logo in the center of a flower and the slogan is "Bee nice or buzz off"

    OK these three (probably terrible) examples get the point across. The user community has a way to communicate their displeaure at a certain post - could be on their page or on someone else's.

    The raters get the message, look it over, respond. The offensive post gets noted, the offender gets a sappy message, like "please bee nicer and don't sting others." (to use the sappiest example possible.)

    I think this is very do-able. The widget could be created as a java widget that could be applied to any post or shared site. And I really don't think generating the rater community would be hard. Yahoo Answers has 100.000's of well vetted people who tune in daily. Just ask each of them to respond to 3 or 4 cases, in exchange for,... you guessed it : MORE POINTS. Or maybe something cooler like free cell phone minutes.

    (c) 2009 edward s magidson.

    November 18, 2009 at 5:39 pm | Reply
  3. Edmund

    Facebook and others may follow a freedom to speech guide instead of trying to school the users which would be a gigantic task. Instead don't most of those sites require you to be 18 and older?

    November 24, 2009 at 11:48 am | Reply
  4. Zach

    This isn't about a panic button, this is about parenting. If parents spent a little more time with their kids, teaching them how to do properly deal with the jerks and miscreants they are bound to encounter during their lives, then the entire concept of cyber-bullying would cease to be an issue. Spending a lot of time and money trying to build a perfect protective bubble for a kid to live in is absurd – challenges are going to arise and rather than remove them from a child's path, it's better to teach that child how to overcome those challenges with patience, compassion, and strength. Maybe the child will have some failures in that effort, but those failures will be far more instructive, and build a lot more character, than living in an artificial state of protection for their entire childhoods.

    November 24, 2009 at 2:49 pm | Reply

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