Community Matters partners with Twitter to reduce and prevent cyberbullying

April 28 2015


  • William Grace Frost, Former Director of Strategic Relations, Community Matters
    William Grace Frost
    Former Director of Strategic Relations, Community Matters
  • Rick Phillips, Founder, Community Matters
    Rick Phillips
    Founder, Community Matters

Twitter is actively used by over 280 million people to express personal perspectives and opinions, to follow current events and the activities of interesting people, and to communicate with friends.

Unfortunately, the 140-character “tweets” can also be used to send mean, hurtful and bullying messages. The problem of social aggression on the internet is, of course, not limited to Twitter. In fact, bullying via cyberspace has become far too common across all platforms -- texting, email, Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat and a growing myriad of others. In March, a study of 1,000 UK-based 13-to-17-year-olds indicated that nearly half of those surveyed had been sent abusive messages over one or more internet platforms.

Putting an end to cyber-meanness is a big challenge, but there are plenty of things that can be done to slow the flow. Twitter and Community Matters are teaming together via a combination of shared resources, advanced technology, information development and distribution, blogposts and cross-training of staffs, to help reduce the amount of bullying, by both identifying and preventing online abuse.

Downstream Initiatives

For their part, Twitter is implementing a number of new policies, technological solutions and increases in staff that will make it much tougher for abusive messages to get through or to stay posted, and much easier for them to identify those who violate their terms of use. According to this blog post from Shreyas Doshi, Director of Product Management, Twitter's new rules state that it may now act after being alerted to tweets that contain "threats of violence against others or promote violence against others".

In addition, Twitter will begin freezing some abusers' accounts for set amounts of time, allowing those affected to see the remaining duration via its app. Abusers may also be required to delete all their previous offending tweets in order to get their account unlocked. Twitter has also started using software to identify tweets that might be abusive, based, says Doshi, on "a wide range of signals and context".

Through these initiatives and more, Twitter is doing their part to continually make the internet a safer place for students and adults. And through their partnership with Community Matters, they’re combining our “upstream” prevention programs with their “downstream” initiatives.

Upstream Prevention

What we know, from over 15 years of working with school climate improvement, is that in order to stem the tide of mean-spirited behaviors with young people, we have to change the culture that accepts incivility and indifference as normal. Although young people have grown up using social media, too often their empathy and the sense of appropriate boundaries that preclude cruel behavior are not well developed. We also know that, much of the time, more than one person is aware of it before a hurtful message is communicated or a “send” button is clicked, so a window of opportunity exists for upstanding peers to prevent the abuse from ever happening.

Community Matters’ evidence-based flagship program, Safe School Ambassadors® (SSA), engages the socially-influential leaders of a school’s diverse cliques, and equips them with effective communication and intervention skills they can use with their peers to prevent, stop and report bullying, cyberbullying and harassment. Twitter has added Community Matters as a Trusted Resource for its users to address online abuse, with plans to co-produce a webinar on social media safety and develop a guide showing young people how they can use social media to come to the aid of a targeted person, and counter meanness with positive social messaging.

By focusing on healthy relationships, and by waking up young people’s courage and equipping them with intervention skills, we can effectively reduce the volume of negative social media usage by preventing it before it occurs and countering it when it happens. Together, Twitter and Community Matters are imagining schools and communities where young people can acquire the skills to be pro-social leaders, change agents and peace-makers. We are envisioning a future where our children become the catalysts for positive change - equipped and empowered to problem solve, use social media responsibly, speak up on behalf of others and prosper in a diverse, multicultural world.

For more information on Safe School Ambassadors® and other ways we work to positively influence school climates, visit our Programs and Services page.

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