SOURCE: Formspring


March 10, 2011 09:00 ET

Formspring and MIT Media Lab Collaborate to Improve Teens' Safety on Social Networks

WASHINGTON, DC--(Marketwire - March 10, 2011) - The White House - Formspring, the service that lets millions of people find out more about one another through sharing interesting and personal responses, today announced a collaboration with The Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Media Lab to develop detection tools that can be applied to surface problematic content and curb online bullying. The two organizations presented their efforts as part of the White House Conference on Bullying Prevention held today.

According to a recent study from the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project, 93 percent of teens (12-17) go online, and as many as 63 percent go online every day, making it a priority for industry leaders, advocacy groups and researchers to collaborate around real-world approaches to ensuring the safety and enjoyment of the Web for everyone. MIT and Formspring discussed their unique effort to bring together the power of a premiere research institution and a social network with 22 million members and 3.5 million visitors every day (30 percent of which are teenagers) to innovate around the issue of online bullying.

During the conference, Henry Lieberman, Principal Research Scientist at the Media Lab, demonstrated his team's research approach to detecting questionable content on social networks, by applying their insights around natural language recognition to determine the meaning behind words. MIT's efforts are an important evolution to standard industry approaches to detect bullying today, such as spam filters, which work by collecting statistics on occurrences of particular words. Formspring has provided the MIT team with data, internal insights and a gift to the program to support their ongoing research. 

Lieberman remarked, "There is a real opportunity to put innovation to work in solving the problem of online bullying, and our work at the Media Lab represents a first step in what we believe can result in powerful solutions for social networks, educators, parents and of course, teens."

Formspring discussed its commitment to discovering and supporting the most technological innovations that can create a more enjoyable environment online. The company's support of the Media Lab's efforts are one part of the company's continued efforts to innovate around intelligent detection of content that disrupts any member's enjoyment of using their popular service. Alongside Formspring's internal innovations around safety and privacy, research projects like Media Lab's efforts present promising new frontiers in creating a better Internet experience.

Sarahjane Sacchetti, Head of Communications at Formspring and recent speaker at FOSI conference, said, "As a rapidly growing social network, we're committed to creating the best possible experience for our millions of members. Naturally this extends to safety and privacy, and the Media Lab's efforts to put some of the world's most advanced research to work in identifying and flagging problematic content is of great interest to us. We're thrilled to be part of this effort and want to emphasize that technologists represent an important part of the solution to this issue."

Today, Formspring boasts over 22 million registered members who have responded to 2.5 billion questions from friends. Since its recent launch of "Smiles," which allows friends to compliment another person's response, Formspring has seen over 18 million individual smiles. From colleges to mommy bloggers, Formspringers are using the service to connect in new and relevant ways. 

About Formspring
Based in San Francisco, CA, Formspring was founded in November of 2009 by Ade Olonoh. Formspring is a global service that encourages millions of people around the world to respond to one another in an authentic and meaningful way. It starts by directly asking people original questions and anticipating their entertaining or revealing responses. On Formspring, people can have fun, share insights and stories, and relate to the people they know or find interesting. As one of the fastest growing Internet sites in 2010, Formspring has over 22M registered members who give more than 10M responses daily.