Protecting Children Online?
Cyberbullying Policies of Social Media Companies
296 pp., 6 x 9 in, 3 b&w illus.
- Published: February 2, 2018
- Publisher: The MIT Press
- Published: February 16, 2018
- Publisher: The MIT Press
A critical examination of efforts by social media companies—including Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram—to rein in cyberbullying by young users.
High-profile cyberbullying cases often trigger exaggerated public concern about children's use of social media. Large companies like Facebook respond by pointing to their existing anti-bullying mechanisms or coordinate with nongovernmental organizations to organize anti-cyberbullying efforts. Do these attempts at self-regulation work? In this book, Tijana Milosevic examines the effectiveness of efforts by social media companies—including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Snapchat, and Instagram—to rein in cyberbullying by young users. Milosevic analyzes the anti-bullying policies of fourteen major social media companies, as recorded in companies' corporate documents, draws on interviews with company representatives and e-safety experts, and details the roles of nongovernmental organizations examining their ability to provide critical independent advice. She draws attention to lack of transparency in how companies handle bullying cases, emphasizing the need for a continuous independent evaluation of effectiveness of companies' mechanisms, especially from children's perspective. Milosevic argues that cyberbullying should be viewed in the context of children's rights and as part of the larger social problem of the culture of humiliation.
Milosevic looks into five digital bullying cases related to suicides, examining the pressures on the social media companies involved, the nature of the public discussion, and subsequent government regulation that did not necessarily address the problem in a way that benefits children. She emphasizes the need not only for protection but also for participation and empowerment—for finding a way to protect the vulnerable while ensuring the child's right to participate in digital spaces.
The open access edition of this book was made possible by generous funding from Knowledge Unlatched.
The apparent persistence of cyberbullying casts a major shadow over the efficacy of the online industry's efforts to instill trust in the quality and safety of their services. Milosevic's well-researched study offers a refreshing and insightful perspective on the dynamics underpinning self-regulation among social media companies and points towards new policy solutions that will be a very welcome addition to debate on this topic.
Brian O'Neill, Dublin Institute of Technology
The provocative question mark at the end of the title should ring the alarm for concerned communities about children's mental and physical health. Bringing social media companies' role into the forefront of a global debate, Milosevic goes straight to the point of responsibility, the weakness of regulation in so many of its facets. She asks uncomfortable questions and does not favor proponents of regulatory intervention or apologists of market-driven 'self-regulation.' Astute, accessible, involved, this book forces us to take a comprehensive, but highly informed and focused look at the world of markets, media, politics, and adult responsibility in protecting children's human dignity and the tragic neglect and intentional exploitation of young lives.
Katharine Sarikakis, Professor of Media Governance and Media Industries, Jean Monnet Chair of European Integration and Media Governance, University of Vienna
Funding provided by: Knowledge Unlatched