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TBWA\Helsinki releases 'polite typeface' to take on cyberbullying

A new digital tool has been invented to tackle the most common forms of hate speech by blurring, or rewriting, hateful/harmful words.

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

TBWA\Helsinki releases 'polite typeface' to take on cyberbullying

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

The beta version of The Polite Type covers nearly 2,000 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 organisation. The creative partner behind the idea is TBWA\Helsinki.

TBWA\Helsinki releases 'polite typeface' to take on 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.

TBWA\Helsinki releases 'polite typeface' to take on cyberbullying

Haring mentions that the company 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."

TBWA\Helsinki releases 'polite typeface' to take on cyberbullying

Mikko Pietilä, executive creative director at TBWA\Helsinki, mentions that The Polite Type is still far from being a finalised product, and alone will not solve the problem, but it’s a start.

TBWA\Helsinki releases 'polite typeface' to take on cyberbullying

"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,” he explains. Pietilä hopes that the cause should act as a wake-up call for audiences and help tackle bullying.

“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 multilayered 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 at 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 was HEI Schools, a global network of early education centres based on the Finnish educational model. The designer behind the font design is Mika Melvas.