Five from Finland
Preventing bullying, offline and online
This Finnish quintet aims to help protect individuals and businesses alike from bullying, whether in person or online.Julia Bushueva
These five Finnish solutions seek to help to stop the bullying, abuse and harassment that takes place in both the physical and online worlds.
No matter whether it happens in the school yard or on social media, the stress and intimidation inflicted by bullying can have serious far-reaching repercussions for individuals and communities. And whilst the common train of thought suggests it is a phenomenon that solely impacts people, companies and their brands certainly are not immune to being attacked online either.
Below are five approaches developed in Finland that seek to mitigate the threat posed by bullying and cyberbullying.
Compared to face-to-face bullying, online bullying is a relatively recent phenomenon, but no less traumatising. In some cases, insults, lies, threats and hate speech spread online lead to criminal liability. Established by three women in 2017, SomeBuddy is a digital legal service that offers help for various types of online harassment and cyberbullying.
With SomeBuddy, anyone who has encountered problems online has immediate access to legal and psychological care. In addition, the service contains useful tips and preventive materials for all social media users, children and adults alike. In very severe cases, there are ways in which SomeBuddy can advise and encourage the victim to report the events to the police.
“Surely we all know that bullying online isn’t right, but not everyone is aware that it can be downright criminal,” said SomeBuddy’sEija-Leena Koponen. “Approaching the police might feel daunting to many, so our job is to offer easily accessible assistance and guidance.”
With its focus on student wellbeing and peer communication, Mightifier is a specially designed positive school culture programme, and an efficient digital tool to reduce bullying and harmful social isolation, improve classroom atmosphere, and provide safer and more respectful learning environments. Since school bullying is a universal problem, Mightifier has piqued interest in various parts of the world, including the US and across Asia.
“Sadly, almost every-second student globally is bullied at some point in time at school,” revealed founder and CEO Mervi Pänkäläinen. “Our application reduces this quantity by improving social skills, which leads to better self-esteem and ultimately better learning results.”
Last year, when the COVID-19 outbreak hit the global education sector causing great stress to both educators and students, Mightifier was among the first Finnish edtech providers to join the Koulu.me and Teach Millions initiatives and share its expertise with those in need of support. As a result, Mightifier saw a nearly fivefold increase in enquires and made its way to HolonIQ’s annual list of the 50 most innovative edtech companies in the Baltics and Nordics.
Developed at the University of Turku and used in hundreds of schools in Finland and across the world, KiVa is a research- and evidence-based anti-bullying programme with scientifically proven efficiency. On a mission to stop school bullying, KiVa concentrates on three main areas: prevention, intervention and monitoring.
Studying the phenomenon of bullying and its mechanisms is an ongoing process. Last year, professor Christina Salmivalli, one of the key experts behind KiVa, received a 2.5 million-euro Advanced Grant from the European Research Council to expand her research to the most persistent bullying cases and create new intervention models for them.
“So far, we have focused on the successful outcomes by studying how much bullying has reduced, and it really has reduced significantly,” Salmivalli explained. “However, there are still children who are bullied, and those who continue bullying regardless of intervention. I now want to address these persistent cases and find out what we can learn from them.”
Increasingly, businesses are finding themselves harassed by cyberbullies and online trolls, which can eventually result in disruptions to marketing campaigns, reputational losses and even legal cases. Tackling the issue, this Helsinki-based company offers “real-time protection of brand reputation and ad performance on social media”.
BrandBastion relies on artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and human expertise to monitor millions of social interactions a day, and remove any harmful comments and distractions. The solution, trusted by the likes of Uber, Netflix and Slush, allows brands to drive better performance on social media and protect their community.
“There are a lot of things that the brand or companies need to be aware of immediately,” said founder and CEO Jenny Wolfram. “Social media is existing 24/7 […]. You have to be really fast, because on social media something can escalate in a few minutes.”
Founded in 2014, Utopia Analytics has developed a highly reliable automated content moderation tool to combat abusive user-generated content in news commentary, chat forums, review sites and more. The company’s AI-powered moderator has great language and learning capabilities: it understands all languages and dialects in the world and is not thrown off by typos or slang.
“Language is used very carelessly on social media, but that does not matter to us, as we can moderate any writing style,” CEO Mari-Sanna Paukkeritold us a few years ago. “We have compared our product to different spam filters, and they can moderate 20–30 per cent of all hate speech with a high error rate, while we can moderate it all with high accuracy. It is a huge difference.”
As more companies in Finland and abroad are beginning to see the many possibilities that AI and machine learning can bring, the ambitious startup’s clientele has been steadily growing. Utopia’s solution is used, for example, to moderate content on Momia, a multilingual social media for children, and popular online marketplaces such as Hungary’s Jófogás, Switzerland’s Tutti.ch and Finland’s Tori.fi. Moreover, Finland’s government is now using Utopia to examine online hate speech.
Originally published in January 2021