The Webby for Good, produced in partnership with WP Engine, is a showcase of Webby-honored projects and campaigns that are promoting social good in the world.
Describe your project. What is it, what was the elevator pitch?
Reword is the first real-time alert for online bullying behavior, acting as an educational tool to develop a child’s moral compass when they first become active on social media. It detects insults using regex matching. When a match is found, the child is alerted with a red strikethrough, instantly interrupting their behavior and making them reconsider before they press send. Reword integrates with all social platforms and is designed so children can contribute new insults, helping the tool recognize evolving language. Reword is fundamentally changing the culture of online bullying, creating a new generation that respects each other – online and in real life.
What key challenges did you face with this project? And how did you overcome them?
The scale of our risk is best judged by what we didn’t have. There was no client at the beginning of this project, or budget to work with. We had no history of creating a bespoke tech product like this, and we’d never gone through the process of developing such a complex tool before. After 3 years, collaborating with youth groups, mental health experts, and creating countless prototypes, Reword has now garnered huge support, as educators and parents continue to promote its implementation. Surpassing 700,000 installations in 12 months, it has delivered a distinct, positive impact on behavior, with an incredible 67% reduction in bullying behavior per user.
What was the most rewarding aspect of working on your project?
The greatest reward is to know that our everyday commercial skills can in fact be a force for positive change. We received personal messages from around the world, including Finland, Japan, Spain and Brazil. But we knew we were providing a much-needed salve when we received messages like this one from Brendan, age 15: “I came across this page as a recommendation and I would like to say that what you are doing is a really wonderful thing. I am in Year 10 now and I have been bullied by almost my whole year since Year 7 and I have gone to teachers and they refused to do anything… I actually got suspended recently because I got so angry at this bullying and the lack of support that I have received… right now, I would say it’s groups, organisations and communities like this that are my last hope.”
Why this particular cause as the subject of your project/campaign?
As parents, we were concerned about the rise of online bullying. It’s become endemic, and children are incredibly vulnerable. 463,000 young people are bullied online in Australia each year. At number 5 globally, Australia outpaces most countries in prevalence of cyberbullying, jumping to number 1 for abuse on social networks.
When working on this project, what were some of the most important conversations you had with your team?
Our team stretched beyond the direct project team, collaborating with mental health experts and youth psychologists from Headspace. These conversations with experts had the most impact. We were informed of behavioral insights and research that led to a significant shift away from the initial experience of Reword, and to the tool’s overall success. Our research and testing also saw Reword influenced by youth reference groups. Sharing early development of the tool with young people directly affected by online abuse raised personal experiences and powerful conversations, highlighting how sensitive and real the issue we were tackling really was. Their bravery to help make a difference and hope gave the team real purpose and inspiration.
What did you learn from working on this project that you didn't know going into it? Did anything come out of it that surprised you, or that you weren't expecting?
One of the things we learned through this process was that children under 25 are still developing their moral compass. They often act impulsively, not realizing the effect their actions and words can have. We used that insight to guide our development. During the beta phase we tested with young people to refine usability and messaging. Through that research, we were encouraged to learn that 79% of young people would be willing to Reword when prompted.
The use and/or implementation of groundbreaking mobile technology or unconventional applications of mobile technology in mobile sites, apps and environmental situations. Entries in this category may be theoretical, pre-production technologies pushing the