Finnish software turns cyber bulling text into kinder words

More than a third of bullying happens online, and Espoo-based TietoEVRY has worked with teenagers and children's charities to develop a new font that aims to make online a gentler place to be.

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File image of The Polite Type font / Credit: TietoEVRY

A Finnish software company has developed a new to cut down on cyber bullying by turning words that are meant to harm or humiliate into something more pleasant.

Espoo-based TietoEVRY collaborated with teenagers at Finnish schools, and the Children & Youth Foundation, to create an anti-bullying font called ‘The Polite Type‘ which has 2,000 words in its library. The smart font tackles most common forms of online harassment like name-calling and cursing, and recognises and rewrites cyber bullying and hate speech by blurring out hurtful words and replacing them one more considerate ones.

So phrases like “I hate you” will be rewritten as “I disagree with you.”

“Our purpose is to promote equality and inclusion. We want bullies to rethink the words they use and the actual meaning behind them” says Kia Haring from TietoEVRY.

“The Polite Type supports our vision of creating a safe and equal environment with digital solutions” she adds.

According to the developers more than a third of bullying takes place online, and it’s become a major concern for parents, teachers and other caregivers.

“Bullying is especially damaging when it comes to children and young people. Young people don’t have the same psychological tools as adults do to deal with hateful comments, and it can leave long-lasting emotional scars” says TietoEVRY’s Kia Harding.

“I hope that our cause acts as a wake-up call for all audiences to consider how bullying could be tackled. Being polite and respectful should be the default option whether online or offline” she says.

The software is being rolled out this term at HEI Schools, a global network of early education centres based on the Finnish education model. The font is open-source, which means anyone with the right skills can help to improve the software.