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Cyberbullying insurance product could go global

chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2019-09-17 03:48
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AI era presents whole new threat to reputations

Cyberbullying among young people is a global and persistent phenomenon which unfortunately showcases how innate our misuse of technology can be if the right guidance is not forthcoming from both family and school support systems.

China currently has the world's largest internet community, with around 1.25 billion users, many of them still in education, which is the group most at risk of being bullied online.

Recent research from the Central China Normal University suggests that as many as 58 percent of students have encountered online bullying. This is a huge issue given the size and normality of the growing internet-using population, and aside from local authority intervention, other more unique solutions are being found based in private industries.

Danish PR company Atak A/S specializes in SEO and reputation management. This involves removing slander or unflattering information from the internet for companies who want to limit negative online PR issues.

Keyword analysis identifies offending material, which is then removed by contacting webmasters. One day the company's CEO William Atak decided to help a friend whose daughter had been the victim of malicious social media rumors, and in doing so realized there was a gap in the market for such a service.

He now plans to bring it into the mainstream with the first product of its kind, addressing a new issue, unique to our technical age. The service will provide a remedy for cyberbullying and revenge porn, a sort of insurance policy paid on a regular basis to ensure protection from malicious users.

It has existed as a company perk for Atak employees since 2015, which, in cybertechnology terms, counts almost as decades ago, and has also caught the attention of insurance company AIG.

Atak told tech magazine Wired: "It will cover any kind of harassment or bullying, any kind of threat of extortion online, ranging from fake news, fake profiles impersonating you, fake information about your life, confidential information about you or your partner, any revenge porn, any distracting or abusive photos or videos of you and your life, and any kind of humiliation about you online."

However, it is important that such services do not limit genuine free speech, something Atak acknowledges. "If I write something online that says, you're stupid," he says, "that's humiliating of course, but everyone has the right to think of you as stupid." It is important therefore, that the line between bullying and legitimate opinion stays clear.

These kind of services may become much more commonplace in the future, and visionaries such as Atak could end up as the first of many.

Given the recent privacy scandals of deep fake apps such as Zao, we may soon all require protection from slander online, as improvements in artificial intelligence now mean that impersonating someone accurately down to the last digital pixel takes just a few swipes on a smartphone.

In the future, cyberbullying may not be limited to just children, as we slowly move toward a world where the majority of communication is done online. Anyone can be a target.

And in this new era of personal cyber threats attacking not just our privacy, but our virtues, we may need all the entrepreneurial protection we can get.

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