At Thursdayâ€™s White House Conference for Bullying Prevention in Washington, D.C., Facebook is announcing a new suite of tools to protect users from bullying, foster a stronger sense of community in the social network, and â€œcreate a culture of respectâ€ among Facebook users.
Facebookâ€™s latest changes boil down to two main aspects: an improved safety center with more multimedia resources, and better, more social tools for reporting offensive or bullying content.
In addition to reporting harassing or TOS-violating content directly to Facebook, users now have two new options that are more social and more community-centric. Within the reporting options interface, the targeted user can choose to privately message the user who posted the stressful or offensive content. If the user wishes to report the content to Facebook, he or she can also choose to include a trusted authority figure, such as a teacher or parent, as a contact in that incident report.
As for the Safety Center upgrades, Facebook will be bringing â€œnew educational videos, external resources from renowned experts, downloadable materials for people to share and discussâ€ and more resources within the coming weeks. The company is also asking teens to contribute feedback on smart, safe uses of technology.
Here are some screenshots of the new tools in action:
How Facebook Developed Its New Anti-Bullying Tools
Arturo Bejas, Facebookâ€™s director of engineering, told us in a phone conversation, â€œ[Facebook] spent some time looking at reports we were getting in different categories. We take down content that violates our policies, but we also wanted to help people get support from someone in their livesâ€¦ someone you trust who can help you deal with this in a way thatâ€™s constructive.â€
â€œWe want this to be a learning experience where people learn how to deal with bullying and feel empowered,â€ Bejas said.
Bejas also noted that not all bullying content is intended to malign or harm the user on the receiving end. â€œIn talking to safety advocates, we learned that a lot of these things are accidental,â€ he said.
â€œPeople post things they think are funny, but they donâ€™t realize itâ€™s stressful. Thereâ€™s no malicious intent, and it might not violate the terms of service, but it still needs to be resolved.â€
The LGBT Connection
The social networkâ€™s focus on anti-bullying tools has, to a large extent, been driven by Facebookâ€™s partnerships with LGBT organizations since last fallâ€™s tragic and highly visible string of gay teen suicides. These efforts began with a partnership with GLAAD and expanded to include a Network of Support, a group that counts such organizations as the Human Rights Campaign and PFLAG among its members.
Facebook public policy communications manager Andrew Noyes told us that after the Tyler Clementi and Billy Lucas suicides, â€œThere was hightened awareness around LGBT bullyingâ€¦ Weâ€™ve certainly talked to our Network of Support and safety advisory board, and theyâ€™re very excited about these features.â€
This announcement marks the first major changes to Facebookâ€™s security and safety options since a Safety Center revamp last spring.