Tweets Provide New Insight into Bullying Behaviors and Roles

Researchers have historically had a difficult time studying bullies and their victims. Now, researchers at the University of Wisconsin–Madison are getting a much more in-depth view of bullying by studying interactions on Twitter.

“What we found, very importantly, was that quite often the victim and the bully and even bystanders talk about a real-world bullying incident on social media. The computers are seeing the aftermath, the discussion of a real-world bullying episode.”

 — Jerry Zhu, computer sciences professor, UW–Madison

The researchers have used machine learning to teach computers to comb through more than 250 million public Twitter posts a day. The work has identified more than 15,000 tweets per day related to bullying.

In addition to bullies, victims, accusers, and defenders – bullying roles identified by independent researchers in the early ‘90s – the researchers have identified a fifth role: that of “reporters.”

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© Tony Leininger and IT for Good 2012. See sidebar for full copyright notice.

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