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Crowdfunding project takes aim at Facebook bullying

Yasin Sila, Lisa Tsosie, Tara Tucker
December 18, 2013

Tara Tucker is an ASU student; she is also the mother of three young boys. Her interest in making the cyber world safer for adolescents motivated her to participate in the BullyBlocker project being led by Yasin Silva, an assistant professor in ASU’s New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences.

BullyBlocker is an application that aims to prevent cases of adolescents being cyberbullied on Facebook by extracting information from their Facebook data and alerting parents to potential issues.

Tucker and other students are working to develop BullyBlocker with Silva, who teaches courses in New College’s bachelor of science degree program in applied computing. New College is the core college on ASU’s West campus. Himself a parent, Silva says he feels a moral obligation to do everything he can to eliminate the effects of cyberbullying.

With assistance from other offices across the university, Silva now is turning to the public to help make BullyBlocker a reality.

BullyBlocker is the first of several ASU research projects kicking off crowdfunding campaigns this month. The campaigns are part of ASU’s new, official crowdfunding program, managed by the ASU Foundation for a New American University. Several student ventures have already launched campaigns through the program.

Now, the Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development (OKED) is managing a new effort for faculty research, kicking off a rolling pilot period in December through the new year.

Crowdfunding is a means of securing financial support by helping individuals tap into their networks through the Internet. While a lot of research funding relies on receiving large amounts of money from a single donor, crowdfunding campaigns usually succeed through small donations from many individuals.

“With the support of generous individual donors, we will be able to provide much-needed research scholarships to student participants in this project, buy hardware and computing resources needed to complete the implementation of BullyBlocker, and provide students with the opportunity to attend research conferences and present the results of their hard work,” Silva said. “Most importantly, public support will allow us to empower parents in the battle against cyberbullying.”

Another student participant in the BullyBlocker project is Lisa Tsosie, who traveled to Minneapolis in October to give a poster presentation about BullyBlocker at the 2013 Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing. Tsosie successfully competed for a Google Women of Color Scholarship to attend the conference.

“As a BullyBlocker participant, I am gaining the kind of networking experience that will benefit me as I pursue the professional world of computer science,” Tsosie said. “Learning the kind of language that’s used to persuade, inform and request support is important if I want to establish a solid, reliable network within my field of interest. More importantly, if we receive the support we are requesting, I can gain the satisfaction of being a part of a team that created an invaluable application for parents and adolescents alike.”

Added Tucker, “I am gaining valuable experience in research and application development that I will be able to apply in my career endeavors. And it’s easy for me to be motivated to work on this project because BullyBlocker is a tool that I would like to have to help keep my children safe from the dangers associated with cyberbullying.”

By running their campaigns through ASU’s new crowdfunding program, researchers receive training on effective fundraising and coaching throughout the campaign, can use the ASU logo and branding, and can allow donors to claim their contributions as a charitable donation.

“It truly is an honor to have our project selected for the crowdfunding pilot at ASU,” Silva said. “The support we have received from OKED and the ASU Foundation has been outstanding, offering orientation tutorials and one-on-one meetings. Throughout this process, I have learned a great deal about online fundraising techniques and marketing strategies.”

You can see all of ASU’s crowdfunding campaigns, powered by the USEED platform, at Because contributions are made through the ASU Foundation, a nonprofit organization that supports ASU, donations may be considered charitable contributions.

Jan. 9, 2014 is the deadline to make a contribution to the BullyBlocker project.

If you are an ASU researcher interested in raising money through USEED, contact Kathryn Scheckel, assistant director of special projects for OKED, at (480) 965-9293. If you are an ASU student or staff member interested in crowdfunding, please contact Shad Hanselman, senior director of the Office of Annual Giving at the ASU Foundation, at (480) 965-0516.