The Anti-Cyberbullying Movement That Is Spreading Like Wildfire
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Online toxicity has become a rising global concern, with cyberbullying thriving on social media and gaming platforms and researchers finding a direct correlation with rising suicide rates. Thanks to these findings and the efforts of high-profile activists like Monica Lewinsky, the world has started to take a closer look at this epidemic. But one social-media movement, #CYBERBYTE, has taken anti-bullying awareness to the next level and onto the red carpet.
The campaign was established four years ago by millennial internet and technology attorney Andrew Rossow, and it aims to bring Hollywood and Silicon Valley closer to its fanbase and consumer network, creating an opportunity for the public to really listen, absorb insights and collectively help combat cyberbullying.
“We idolize these individuals so much that we often don’t know why we look up to them,” says Rossow, who sat down with me recently to discuss the motivation and aspirations underpinning #CYBERBYTE. “Ironically, we don’t even know what our favorite actresses, actors, musicians or entrepreneurs really stand for. That’s what makes messages from them that much more impactful.”
Rossow decided to start inviting public figures to join his #CYBERBYTE Movement, beginning with EDM DJ Gareth Emery and Misha Collins of The CW’s Supernatural. They recorded quick videos in which they introduced themselves, announced that they were accepting the #CYBERBYTE Challenge and shared their own personalized PSA detailing either a personal experience they had with online trolling or offering tips on how to stand up against bullies.
“Imagine the power each of these Hollywood stars and tech entrepreneurs hold just through the power of idolization,” Rossow explains. “If each of these individuals could share just 30 seconds of wisdom, maybe that’s just enough to save one more life out there.”
Gaining All-Star Traction
In 2016, inspired by #MeToo and other grassroots calls for societal change, Rossow started the #CYBERBYTE movement through the sole use of the hashtag “#CYBERBYTE” on Instagram and Twitter. (It is currently hosted through KNEKT TV and syndicated to YouTube and other platforms.) The campaign made its official public debut at FanX Salt Lake Comic-Con in Utah, with the help of husband-and-wife Gorilla Mafia Media filmographers Christopher and Gwendolyn Newhart. The movement hit a new stride when it found its way onto the showroom floor at the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas and again this year at the 2020 show with Entrepreneur Weekly’s Alan Taylor.
Some of notable public figures who have joined #CYBERBYTE include:
Michele Romanow, CEO/founder of Clearbanc and investor on CBC’s Dragon’s Den.
Maria Vathis, former president of Federal Bar Association.
Sean Reyes, Utah’s Attorney General.
Former Maryland Senator Bobby Zirkin.
- Chris Hansen of NBCs How to Catch a Predator.
Rossow has attested to his own victimization at the hands of cyberbullies when he was 13. Seventeen years have passed since then, and in overcoming the trauma and turmoil, he found a new path towards forgiveness and rehabilitation: education.
“People can change; I truly believe that," he says. "But they need to understand the harm bullying causes others. And in today’s digital age, there has to be another mechanism to connect to these individuals. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, I say that a video is worth 60,000 words a second, which is why the #CYBERBYTE Movement is video-centric.”
In Rossow's view, having someone to look up who's willing to speak about their own experiences with bullying could help create a ripple effect that plays a role in saving the lives of others. Rossow has received countless letters of gratitude, and he understands and regularly reinforces that when it comes to combating online bullying, violence and hatred are not the solution.
Pressed to offer a piece of wisdom for entrepreneurs looking to make a similar difference, Rossow's advice is passionate but direct: “Identify a problem that has yet to be solved, and find a way to solve it in your own way, but make sure it is in a way that gives back to the community. There is always a niche or opening looking to be explored. You just have to find it.”