Facebook backs Australian ‘digital ambassadors' anti-cyberbullying campaign

An anti-cyberbullying initiative will build a network of 10,000 ‘digital ambassadors'.

Facebook has pledged $1 million to an Australian anti-cyberbullying initiative.

Co-founder of Project RockIt, Rosie Thomas said together they aim to build a network of 10,000 ‘digital ambassadors' across 600 schools over the next two years.

"This is all about peer-based, youth-driven anti-bullying education. It’s not enough to just talk strategies, we need to go beyond that," she said.

"We need young people to come up with the strategies, to own them, and give them the platform to actually lead on the issues that they’re experts in."

Education Minister Dan Tehan, who has just launched the federal government’s latest cyber safety framework for schools, welcomed Facebook’s investment.

"I don’t think there is one silver bullet that will fix this issue, I think we’ve got to look at a variety of programs. But the most important thing is now we’re starting to get programs in place where we empower kids, where we empower principals and teachers but also we can inform and empower broader members of the community."

Minister for Education Dan Tehan.
Source: AAP

A counselling service run by Kids Helpline receives about 3,500 thousand calls a year from young people experiencing bullying. The organisation's Tony Fitzgerald said more than a third of calls concern cyberbullying.

"Social media platforms certainly have a role to play in this space, and they have responsibilities to ensure that their platforms can be used appropriately and safely. However, when we’re talking about the issues of bullying and cyberbullying, we’re also talking about the behaviour of individuals." 

Founder of Cyber Safety Solutions Susan McLean said having children switch off their devices altogether is not realistic, and other action is needed.

"I think it’s vital that social media companies partner with organisations within a community to try to stem the rise of hate and bullying online. Cyberbullying is not a technology issue, it’s a social issue, it’s an interpersonal relationship issue that’s playing out online."

Facebook's global head of safety Antigone Davis said the company has a team of almost 20,000 people working towards identifying harmful material within 24-hours.

"But more than that, we’re also using more and more technology to get ahead of these issues and to be able to pull things down quickly as well as to prioritise reports so that we can move fast through them," Ms Davis said.

"We can put in place the policies, the tools and whatever else we need to really try and create a safe platform, but we can’t do it without partners like Project RockIt building programs in schools."

While Ms Thomas said it is important for young people to understand that no one deserves to be bullied.

"Anyone who sees anyone else being bullied, it’s so much easier to stand up for someone else than it is for them to stand up for themselves, so take the plunge and actually stand up, have the courage to have somebody’s back."

Readers seeking support can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14, and the Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 (for young people aged 5 to 25).

Published 19 October 2018 at 9:11pm, updated 20 October 2018 at 9:39am
By Sarah Abo