Facebook steps up fight against bullying and harassment

Facebook is trying to combat online harassment while balancing free speech concerns.

Aytug Can Sencar/Anadolu Agency/Techhnews

Reading a stream of nasty comments on Facebook can wreak psychological havoc on a person’s mind, but now the social media giant is giving users more ways to combat online bullying and harassment.

Facebook said Tuesday users will be able to hide or delete multiple comments at once by clicking on the options menu of a post. Users who are flagged can appeal decisions about bullying and harassment by requesting that the company perform another review. 

The tech firm is also planning to make it easier for people to report bullying or harassment, allowing them to do so on behalf of a friend or family member.

“Being the target of unwanted attention can be stressful and some people may not feel comfortable reporting a bully or harasser,” wrote Antigone Davis, Facebook’s global head of safety, in a blog post. 

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The new feature to report bad behavior on behalf of friends and family will be available starting Tuesday. The ability to hide or delete comments using Facebook on a desktop computer or Android-powered device is also coming Tuesday, and will be made available for iPhone and iPad apps in the coming months. 

The moves come as Facebook, which has more than 2 billion users worldwide, grapples with how to combat online harassment while balancing free speech concerns. That hasn’t always worked out too well. In the past couple months, for example, President Donald Trump and high profile conservative pundits have accused the company of censoring conservative voices. For its part, Facebook denies the allegations.

In March, Silicon Valley tech firms including Facebook met with first lady Melanie Trump to talk about how they can do a better job combating online harassment. 

As part of its anti-harassment efforts announced Tuesday, Facebook also said it will do a better job protecting public figures from harassment and bullying. “Severe attacks” against them won’t be allowed in the coming weeks. 

Despite all these efforts, the fight against online harassment and bullying is far from over.

About 59 percent of US teens have been bullied or harassed online and most think social media sites are doing a fair or poor job of addressing this issue, according to the Pew Research Center.

“We know our job is never done when it comes to keeping people safe,” Davis wrote. “We’ll continue listening to feedback on how we can build better tools and improve our policies.”

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