Anti-bullying innovation – new typeface forces bullies to think twice

Cyberbullying is a widely discussed global issue that hasn’t faced many tangible solutions. A new digital tool has been invented to tackle most common forms of hate speech by blurring or rewriting words that are meant to harm and humiliate others.

Over a third of bullying today takes place online, with the number rapidly increasing (UNESCO*). As online learning and virtual classrooms are becoming the new norm, cyberbullying is a big issue for the youth.

The Polite Type is a font that has been taught to recognize and rewrite hate speech. In practice, the font automatically blurs hateful words or replaces them with more inclusive ones. TietoEVRY, the company behind this initiative, wants to promote online equality and raise discussion about ways to stop cyberbullying. 

“The Polite Type supports our vision of creating a safe and equal environment with digital solutions. I hope that our cause acts as a wake-up call for all audiences to consider how bullying could be tackled, ” says Kia Haring, global head of communication and sustainability at TietoEVRY.

A simple solution for a complex problem

At launch, the beta version of The Polite Type covers nearly two-thousand words in English and can be freely downloaded and installed on any computer. The font has been created together with Finnish teenagers. As an open-source font, it can be further developed by any individual developer or organization. The creative partner behind the idea is TBWA\ Helsinki.

“We wanted to create a tool to remind people that being polite and respectful should be the default option both online and offline. Cyberbullying and hate speech are universal issues and it demands enormous courage for our client to open this pandora’s box. The Polite Type is still far from being a finalized product and alone will not solve the problem, we know that, but it’s a start. We believe that leading by example encourages others to join the cause and maybe in the future, The Polite Type will be the default font in all online platforms,” explains Mikko Pietilä, Executive Creative Director from TBWA\Helsinki.

Global co-operation delivers an innovative solution

TBWA\Helsinki is part of TBWA\Worldwide that is globally recognized for their innovative and tech-centric approach, such as the hands-free handle to prevent the spread of infections.

“Because cyberbullying and microaggressions are hard to monitor, we wanted to help parents and professionals by creating a typeface that blurs and in some cases autocorrects offensive words and phrases as they are typed. Diversity is a multi-layered topic, but it can help us learn to be more understanding of each other. At its core, diversity is innovation,” says Doug Melville Chief Diversity Officer from TBWA\ Worldwide.

The project was carried out together with The Children & Youth Foundation in Finland and the digital studio Great Apes. The first to introduce The Polite Type as a resource for teachers and pupils is HEI Schools, a global network of early education centers based on the Finnish educational model. The designer behind the font design is Mika Melvas.

 

(*) According to UNESCO / Behind the numbers: ending school violence and bullying (2019) / ISBN – licensed under 978-92-3-100306-6. https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000366483. The present work is not an official UNESCO publication and shall not be considered as such.

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