Fighting cyberbullying with words – creating a more inclusive Internet with The Polite Type
20 August 2020
TietoEVRY, a leading Nordic digital services and software company, has launched an initiative against cyberbullying co-developed with teenagers. The Polite Type is an open-source font that rewrites hurtful words and replaces them with more considerate ones to ignite anti-bullying discussion.
Over a third of bullying today takes place online, with the number rapidly increasing, according to a report by UNESCO*. With the mass adoption of online learning and virtual classrooms becoming the norm in many parts of the world, young people have greater access to technology and tools that can be used for good, but can also cause harm when used for cyberbullying. TietoEVRY, the company behind the initiative, wants to promote online equality and raise discussion about ways to stop cyberbullying.
TietoEVRY collaborated with teenagers from different schools to create an anti-bullying font. The project was carried out together with their long-term partner Children & Youth Foundation in Finland and the digital studio Great Apes.
Young people’s social encounters are increasingly taking place online, which makes cyberbullying a more common phenomenon. This initiative specifically addresses online language usage by pointing out offensive language and directing users to choose their words better.
The Polite Type is a font that has been taught to recognize and rewrite cyberbullying and hate speech. In practice, it is harder to write hateful English-language words, as the font automatically replaces them with more inclusive ones. When installed, The Polite Type appears in users’ font libraries and can be used in commonly used text editing software, also offline. The font is freely downloadable and can be used, for example, as an educational tool by parents or by teachers.
"Through this concrete action our purpose is to promote equality and inclusion. We want bullies to rethink the words they use and the actual meaning behind them. Inclusion, diversity and the upmost respect for people are at the core of our values at TietoEVRY. The Polite Type supports our vision of creating a safe and equal environment with digital solutions” says Kia Haring, global head of communication and sustainability at TietoEVRY.
“Bullying is especially damaging when it comes to children and young people. Young people don’t have the same psychological tools as adults do to deal with hateful comments, and it can leave long-lasting emotional scars. I hope that our cause acts as a wake-up call for all audiences to consider how bullying could be tackled. Being polite and respectful should be the default option whether online or offline,” Haring continues.
The Polite Type has been developed in close collaboration with a diverse team with backgrounds in anti-racism and inclusion. Michaela Moua, a Senior Officer at the Office of the Non-discrimination Ombudsman; Jonna Louvrier, a Diversity and Inclusion Consultant with a background in research at Stanford University; and Inklusiiv, a non-profit community with a mission to advance diversity and inclusion in the working environment. Together with TietoEVRY, they now invite individuals, developers and tech companies worldwide to further develop the font and join the cause against bullying and discrimination.
The first to introduce The Polite Type as a resource for teachers and pupils is HEI Schools, a global network of early education centers based on the Finnish educational model.
“We alone can’t solve this issue, but we can raise awareness – and maybe we can inspire new and improved ideas. The font is open-source, anyone with the capabilities to help and improve is welcome to do so,” concludes Haring.
(*) According to UNESCO / Behind the numbers: ending school violence and bullying (2019) / ISBN – licensed under 978-92-3-100306-6. https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000366483. The present work is not an official UNESCO publication and shall not be considered as such.
TietoEVRY creates digital advantage for businesses and society. We are a leading digital services and software company with local presence and global capabilities. Our Nordic values and heritage steer our success.
Headquartered in Finland, TietoEVRY employs around 24,000 experts globally. The company serves thousands of enterprise and public sector customers in more than 90 countries. TietoEVRY’s annual turnover is approximately EUR 3 billion and its shares are listed on the NASDAQ in Helsinki and Stockholm as well as on the Oslo Børs. www.tietoevry.com