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Cyberbullies tracked and smashed with new tool

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Nasty personal attacks on social media networks like Instagram can be tracked and smashed with a new digital tool.

Developed by CU Boulder's CyberSafety Research Center, the software combines several different computing tools to scan massive amounts of social media data, sending alerts to parents or network administrators that abuse has occurred.

The approach uses five times less computing resources than existing tools and that's efficient enough to monitor a network the size of Instagram for a modest investment in server power.

The group who produced the initiative have released a free app for Android phones that allows parents to receive alerts when their kids are the objects of bullying on Instagram called BullyAlert.

The team first employed real humans to teach a computer program how to separate harmless online comments from abuse and then designed a system that filters the benign from the mean.

When a user uploads a new post, the group's tools make a quick scan of the comments. If those comments look questionable, then that post gets high priority to receive further checks. But if the comments all seem charitable, then the system bumps the post to the bottom of its queue.

The approach was tested on real-world data from Vine, a now-defunct video-sharing platform, and Instagram because they make their data publicly available.

The toolset can monitor traffic on Vine and Instagram in real-time, detecting cyberbullying behavior with 70% accuracy.


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