Facebook - Collaborating to Address Online Safety

In 2018, Facebook launched a major partnership with DCU’s National Anti-Bullying Centre to develop and offer the FUSE Anti-Bullying and Online Safety Programme to all post-primary schools across Ireland. In this piece, Gareth Lambe – VP, International Business Planning and Operations & Head of Office, Facebook Ireland speaks about what has inspired this collaboration.

What inspired Facebook to support the FUSE Anti-Bullying and Online Safety Programme?

At Facebook, the safety of our users is a priority for us, especially when it comes to young people on our platforms (those 13 and over). We are constantly updating our policies, creating new tools and collaborating with experts to meet the safety needs of our users.

As a member of Ireland’s National Advisory Council for Online Safety (NACOS), Facebook is all too aware of the stellar work of a host of online safety stakeholders in Ireland. The National Anti-Bullying Centre has an exemplary reputation for producing impactful research by its highly regarded team, including the UNESCO Chair on Tackling Bullying in Cyberspace and Schools, Prof. James O’Higgins Norman. Developing a partnership with this great team was an ideal fit for us and one of which we are especially proud.

DCU’s Anti-Bullying Centre works to promote positive social relationships in both online and offline spaces. How does this align with Facebook’s own values?

At Facebook we are proud that our products empower more than 3 billion people around the world to share ideas, offer support and make a difference. Our mission is focused on bringing the world closer together and we are focused on keeping our community safe as we work towards this aim.

At the core of FUSE, is a whole-of-school-community approach to tackling online safety and bullying. This very much aligns with Facebook’s approach as evidenced in our Safety Centre where we have dedicated hubs for young people and parents, and resources for educators.[1]

We know that engaging in positive social experiences online is what users want to do on Facebook and Instagram. We do not allow bullying on our platforms, as set out in our Community Standards – the rules that govern what we do and do not allow.[2]

This is why we have developed tools that allow users to report bullying and control any potentially negative experiences. This includes the ability of a user to block someone, hide comments from that person, or ignore their messages. On Instagram, in addition to the above controls we have also developed a comment filter which automatically hides bullying comments intended to harass or upset someone. We have also developed technology that warns a user when the comment they are about to post is potentially hurtful and encourages them to think again before posting.

We know that technology can only go so far, which is why we have a team of 35,000 people working around the clock and around the world to keep our users safe.

Since its launch in 2018, FUSE has engaged with over 12,996 students, 439 teachers and 132 wider school communities in all 26 counties of Ireland. What do you believe have been the key factors in the programme’s success? 

The evidence-based, multi-stakeholder approach has been key to the success of FUSE. The support of the Department of Education in the nationwide rollout, for instance, has been very important.

Since its launch, the team at the Anti-Bullying Centre have listened to feedback from participants and adapted the programme to changing needs, such as the shift to online training during the pandemic. None of FUSE’s success would be possible without the work of this internationally renowned team led by Prof. James O’Higgins Norman. Their collaboration and dedication are very much appreciated by us all at Facebook.


[1] https://www.facebook.com/safety

[2] https://www.facebook.com/communitystandards/bullying