The National Science Foundation (NSF) is financing the creation of a system for the “automatic detection” of cyberbullying. The goal of the project is to create “better cyberbullying detectors.” It hopes to employ “social intervention mechanisms” to prevent cyberbullying. Data on cyberbullying will also “be made available to the larger research community.”

The project was awarded to Rutgers University, and the real-time, automatic detection of hurtful online speech is necessary, according to the NSF grant, because cyberbullying is a “critical social problem.” The grant said 40 percent of American teenagers have reported being cyberbullied. The project will involve searching for keywords and studying the relationships between teenagers who send and receive mean online messages.

“Specifically, this research will advance the state of the art in cyberbullying detection beyond textual analysis by also giving due attention to the social relationships in which these bullying messages are exchanged. A higher accuracy at detection would allow for better mitigation of the cyberbullying phenomenon and may help improve the lives of thousands of victims who are cyberbullied each year,” the grant said.

The project begins in July and is set to last through June 2017.

“By analyzing the social relationship graph between users and deriving features such as number of friends, network embeddedness, and relationship centrality, the project will validate (and potentially refine) multiple theories in social science literature and assimilate those findings to create better cyberbullying detectors,” the grant said. “The project will yield new, comprehensive models and algorithms that can be used for cyberbullying detection in automated settings.”

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