Because users can ask questions anonymously, some of those users feel they can use Formspring’s platform to harass, belittle, intimidate and even threaten others. While most adults might be able to shrug off such words, teens and younger users can have a difficult time emotionally processing hateful speech.
And since quite a large percentage of Formspring’s users fall squarely in the teen and young adult demographic, the startup has decided to take an honest and intelligent look at how bullying can be prevented on the platform.
Today, the startup announced it is partnering with MIT’s Media Lab to develop detection tools for finding “problematic content” and putting a stop to online bullying. Formspring and MIT are presenting their research and project at today’s White House Conference on Bullying Prevention in Washington, D.C.
Henry Lieberman is the principal research scientist at the Media Lab. His team has been using natural language recognition to detect questionable or harassing content in ways that go beyond user reporting and simple word filters. To assist with the team’s research, Formspring has provided the MIT team with valuable internal data on cyberbullying as well as a financial donation to support the Media Lab’s research.
Lieberman said in a release, “There is a real opportunity to put innovation to work in solving the problem of online bullying, and our work at the Media Lab represents a first step in what we believe can result in powerful solutions for social networks, educators, parents and of course, teens.”
Formspring has always been mindful of privacy and safety issues and has been committed to responding to user complaints and reports. However, this new partnership is indicative of a more proactive approach: Why wait for bullying to cause a user stress and emotional pain when it’s possible to detect bullying in advance?
The startup’s communications head, Sarahjane Sacchetti, said, “The Media Lab’s efforts to put some of the world’s most advanced research to work in identifying and flagging problematic content is of great interest to us.
“We want to emphasize that technologists represent an important part of the solution to this issue.”
Via Mashable: http://www.mashable.com