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Web Exclusive: Social media giants fighting cyber bullies

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(CNN) -  Anonymity can result in refreshing candor and honest feedback, but it can also lead to incredible cruelty, especially when the internet is involved.  Now, some social media giants are taking new steps to fight back against cyber bullies and internet trolls. 

It seems today no one is immune from cyber bullying, whether it's Carolina Picchio in Italy, who committed suicide after being targeted online. Or the social activist Caroline Criado-Perez, who faced rape threats on Twitter after winning a battle to feature Jane Austen on British Bank notes.  Or the British diver, Tom Daley shockingly bullied after narrowly missing out on a medal at the Olympic games last year.  Stung into action by their critics, social networks are starting to act.  Twitter responded to the rape threats against Criada-Perez by announcing a simple online button making it easier to report abusive tweets. This puts Twitter on the same page as Facebook, which already has a similar button on every message. Now of course the issue is, what happens after you push the button?

"Unfortunately this is not a simple issue and they're providing mechanisms, what they have to do be more responsive to people when people make complaints, but active policing of content on Facebook is a wildly dangerous issue for them and one that they're likely not going to get into," says Bernie Hogan, Oxford Internet Institute.

It is the very anonymity of social media that is its strength and seemingly a weakness. Psychologists say being faceless on line is what brings out the worst in people.

"I think the Internet has given people a cloak of invisibility.  A kind of anonymous thing where they feel they can do anything, say anything with no boundaries," says Corinne Sweet, Psychologist.
 
So to cure the faceless problem, some websites are eliminating anonymity requiring users to sign into verified accounts before they can post comments. And Facebook itself is making it harder to create fake accounts requiring users' real names and photos to appear on whatever they post.

In June, a young American boy was bullied after he sang the U.S. National anthem in a traditional Mexican Mariachi outfit at a sporting event.  Dozens of Twitter users attacked him with racist comments.  When the media showed those people's names and photos, users deleted tweets and even accounts. But not before a blog called 'Public Shaming' collected the racist screen shots showing names and photos for the world to see, permanently.
 
Facebook is the largest player in social media town and it's widely acknowledged it is leading the industry with measures to fight cyber bullying.  Another problem is new social networks pop up all the time.  They often can't, won't or haven't put in place the policies and principles to join the cyber-fight.

 

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