Research to Combat Cyber-Bullying in Teens and Pioneer New Software for Online Content Safety

27 April 2022

Dublin, 27 April 2022: The COVID-19 pandemic led to an increase in teenagers using digital platforms, not just for personal use, but for education purposes as well. As a result, young people are using social platforms like TikTok, Instagram and others more frequently than in the past. While there are benefits that can result from online interactions, risks such as cyberbullying have increased.  Research underway at Dublin City University by researcher Kanishk Verma aims to combat cyber-bullying in teens and develop new software for tackling antisocial online behaviour. Kanishk is one of the first postgraduate research scholars funded under the Irish Research Council and Google Ireland Scholarship in online content safety.

Speaking about the scholarship Kanishk said: “This scholarship will enable me to bridge the gap between two disciplines – social science and artificial intelligence.  By combining computational expertise with social engagement and analysis we hope to develop a systematic classification of teenager roles and behavioural patterns in cyberbullying.”

The research will be carried out in collaboration with the SFI ADAPT Research Centre for AI-Driven Digital Content Technology and DCU Anti Bullying Centre (ABC) .  The design of a machine intelligent system to tackle abusive online behaviour will be informed by data and feedback gathered from youth focus-groups.  Kanishk will be jointly supervised by Dr Brian Davis at DCU’s School of Computing, Dr Tijana Milosevic at DCU Anti-Bullying Centre, with Dr Rebecca Umbach at Google as his industry mentor.

Commenting on the research, Dr Brian Davis said: “This scholarship presents an opportunity to connect Kanishk’s research with a leading multinational technology company in the vital area of online content safety. The rate of cyberbullying in teenagers is increasing and it is important that we develop the tools and data to ensure their online well-being and safety. Working with Google will significantly expand the scope and impact of the research project, and we look forward to developing knowledge and skills with the Google team.”

The new scholarships were announced by Robert Troy, T.D, Minister of State for Trade Promotion, Digital and Company Regulation, on 14th December 2021.  At that event Minister Troy welcomed the awards and said: “The way we live and work has changed. Over the past two years we have seen the shift to online accelerate almost overnight and with it a growing reliance on remote working and remote learning. While there are many benefits in this, there are risks and challenges. The spread of misinformation online has highlighted a greater need for more robust solutions to online content safety. The world is now online and information spreads faster than any other point in history. We must ensure that with such rapid growth, the internet remains a safe and reliable resource for all. I am delighted to announce the new partnership between the Irish Research Council and Google Ireland and look forward to following the progress of these cutting-edge research scholarships.”