The Polite Type: TietoEVRY & teens fight hate speech a font at a time
"Over a third of bullying today takes place online, with the number rapidly increasing, according to a report by UNESCO*. With the mass adoption of online learning and virtual classrooms becoming the norm in many parts of the world, young people have greater access to technology and tools that can be used for good, but can also cause harm when used for cyberbullying. TietoEVRY wants to promote online equality and raise discussion about ways to stop cyberbullying" notes the typeface's manifesto.
Made by and for the most vulnerable generation to cyberbullying, The Polite Type, a D&AD pencil winner, was created in collaboration with teenagers from different schools to create an anti-bullying font.
With the help of online technology The Polite Type has been taught to recognize and rewrite cyberbullying and hate speech. In practice, it is harder to write hateful English-language words, as the font automatically replaces them with more inclusive ones.
When installed, The Polite Type appears in users' font libraries and can be used in commonly used text editing software, also offline.
As of now, the font utilizes a continuously expanding vocabulary. In the future – with the help of machine learning – it could be taught to understand and recognize broader contexts. Eventually, the Polite Type's open-source approach invites those who want to develop it further to get involved.
"The library of words deemed hurtful has been put together in collaboration with people from different origins, religions, world views and sexual orientations. Naturally, the library is always changing with the language itself. This is why we ask for everyone to find words that are not yet in the library to collaborate with us in broadening its vocabulary."
The font is freely downloadable and can be used, for example, as an educational tool by parents or by teachers in times when young people's social encounters are increasingly taking place online, which makes cyberbullying a more common phenomenon.
This initiative specifically addresses online language usage by pointing out offensive language and directing users to choose their words better.
"Through this concrete action our purpose is to promote equality and inclusion. We want bullies to rethink the words they use and the actual meaning behind them. Inclusion, diversity and the upmost respect for people are at the core of our values at TietoEVRY. The Polite Type supports our vision of creating a safe and equal environment with digital solutions" says Kia Haring, TietoEVRY's global head of communication and sustainability.
"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. 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," Haring continues.
The Polite Type has been developed in close collaboration with a diverse team with backgrounds in anti-racism and inclusion. Michaela Moua, a Senior Officer at the Office of the Non-discrimination Ombudsman; Jonna Louvrier, a Diversity and Inclusion Consultant with a background in research at Stanford University; and Inklusiiv, a non-profit community with a mission to advance diversity and inclusion in the working environment.
The initial vocabulary for the font has been co-created with high-school-aged teenagers and youth from diverse backgrounds in Finland, together with The Children and Youth Foundation. In Sweden, the initiative is supported by Friends-organization.
Together with TietoEVRY, they now invite individuals, developers and tech companies worldwide to further develop the font and join the cause against bullying and discrimination.
The first to introduce The Polite Type as a resource for teachers and pupils is HEI Schools, a global network of early education centers based on the Finnish educational model.
"We alone can’t solve this issue, but we can raise awareness – and maybe we can inspire new and improved ideas. The font is open-source, anyone with the capabilities to help and improve is welcome to do so," concludes Haring.
As the words we choose shape our reality, The Polite Type is a typographic initiative that aims to rewrite the very language online.
TietoEVRY is inviting individuals, developers and companies worldwide to further develop the font and join the cause against cyberbullying. "We want to spark conversations among people of all ages about ways of tackling bullying. The Polite Type is one way to approach this issue and to create a safe space for discussion" notes the company of its noble task that is now live in three countries – Finland, Sweden and Norway.
If you’d like to participate in the co-development of the font, test it in your company or use it in your software, get in touch here.
The Polite Type, a project open to NGOs committed to fighting bullying, can be tested and downloaded here.