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Cyberbullying: Tech Community Looks for Ways to Combat Cyberbullying

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TWC News: Tech Community Looks for Ways to Combat Cyber Bullying
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As NY1 takes a closer look at cyberbullying, tech reporter Adam Balkin explains exactly what it is and how you can identify it.

When you hear the phrase "cyberbullying," what do you think of? There's a good chance that there's some online actions you do not think of that qualify.

So, for a true definition, NY1 turned to one of, perhaps, the world's leading experts on the subject, Parry Aftab, an internet privacy and security lawyer, one of five members of Facebook's International Advisory Board, and the founder of StopCyberBullying.org.

Aftab defines cybe bullying as "when one young person uses digital technology as a weapon to hurt another."

"So they may use your password to get into your game account and steal all of your points," he says. "They may post to sites saying that you're slutty or stupid or gay, whatever it is you're not supposed to be that week. They may pretend to be you and say nasty things to your friends so no one's your friend anymore. They may hack your account and take over everything and publicize it when they can."

Once you've identified cyberbullying, can you then rely on the tech community to help you combat it? Well, yes, to a certain extent. Social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram do monitor for abuses and have ways to quickly report an attack, but kids can be creative in their ways to circumvent bullying countermeasures.

"You can scrub for keywords. You can look for violations. There's lots of ways you can discourage the use of curse words, for example," says Dan Costa of PCMag.com. "But the thing about cyberbullying is that a lot of times, there are no curse words. It is really just people being mean to each other online. The damage is more psychological, and that's a lot harder to ferret out when all you've got are basically search engines to work with."

Some independent groups are working on possible solutions, including Aftab, who's helping some teens in Canada release what's essentially an always-on, always-there cyberbullying red panic button.

"Any site they're on, it will help them report cyberbullying when it happens," Aftab says. "It'll give them information on how to deal with it, and connect them to a one-to-one helpline run by other kids."

That red button is set to launch via StopCyberBullying.org on May 1.

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