Cyberbullying Meets Its Match With Crisp Thinking

When communication entered the cyber domain, the problems found in the adolescent social sphere followed close behind. Cyberbullying has become an increasingly popular method for kids harassing kids, as bullies can access their victims through cell phones or computers any time of the day.

The problem has reached an extent to where President Barack Obama addressed the issue directly during a March 10 speech at the White House, drawing attention to recent suicides of kids who were targets of bullying. “Today, bullying doesn’t even end at the school bell—it can follow our children from the hallways to their cell phones to their computer screens,” Obama said.

Adam Hildreth, CEO of software company Crisp Thinking, saw this problem early on when he used to develop virtual, online worlds for kids.

Many online spaces, from chat rooms to online video games, employ moderators to scan over messages in search of harmful content. The problem was, as the online spaces began to grow past 10,000 users, or even into the millions, monitoring the content becomes nearly impossible. “There’s just too much data floating around, and it also becomes very expensive,” Hildreth said in a phone interview.

While working with the U.K. government to stop cyberbullying and online sexual predators in 2000, inspiration hit. “I thought ‘hey, if we can stop spam in e-mail why can’t we work out what humans are doing to each other online. So that’s really where we started out,’” Hildreth said.

With this, Hildreth would go on to develop a new type of behavioral monitoring software that would change the game on cyberbullies. The system, run under Crisp Thinking, takes a fresh approach at rooting out problematic users.

There was a simple premise behind the software—address the problem in a way most monitoring systems fall short. The program has a unique ability to sort out joking from cruelty and is designed with a special knack for catching the gist of longer conversations where problems may not show on the surface.

Hidreth’s software runs a kind of “credit check” on the user. “What do we know about the user, what are they saying at the moment, and how is the other person reaction to what’s being said. That doesn’t tell us exactly what’s going on, but it gives us a great context to make a decision,” he said.

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