AUBURN — Two high school seniors want to burst into cyberbullies' territory — social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook — with big numbers and an anti-bullying message.
"There's power in numbers," said Lucas Farrago, an Edward Little High School student from Auburn who partnered with a classmate, Samuel Chamberlain of Lewiston, to create the No Bull Project. "The more people who join us, the better we'll do."
On Thursday — after three weeks of preparation — the guys went to work.
Their first target was a profane collection of insults on Twitter that made fun of students in another town. Using a smartphone, Chamberlain, the techie of the duo, posted to Twitter.
"Stop the hate; it's immature and is awful," he wrote. He was identified only by his project's logo and the "#nobull" signifier known to the Twitterverse as a "hash tag."
An hour later, someone else used the signifier and picked up where Chamberlain left off.
"I refuse to stand for bullying," the unidentified person wrote. Some "no bull" members sent pleas to individuals on the insulting Twitter page, asking them to stop.
Membership on Chamberlain and Farrago's site grew.
At 11 a.m. they had 17 Twitter followers. Four and a half hours later, they'd nearly doubled to 30 followers.
It was a small move, but it was in the right direction.
The guys, both of whom will graduate in June, hope it will serve as a kind of legacy and will outgrow their school.
"Hopefully, it will spread throughout Maine and perhaps even throughout all the states," Farrago said. "It just has to get started."
The project came together as a result of a cyberbullying attack that hit the school about three months ago.
"We had an incident where the school kind of divided itself," Chamberlain said.
A girl was targeted by a wave of mean speech on social media and it grew, fueled by teens' desire to Facebook, text and Twitter.
The average high-schooler sends 200 texts and leaves about 50 comments on the Internet each day.
"With the whole Internet age and technology all around us, bullying is not in person anymore," Farrago said. "We want to use the Internet to our benefit."
There is a little guilt at work, too.
"I would say I was definitely part of the problem," Farrago said. "I wouldn't say what I did was malicious, but in no way did it help. I wanted to be part of the solution, instead."
The school has been attacking the problem.
After another incident about one month ago, staff blocked the school's computers from all social media sites, said Steve Galway, an assistant principal at Edward Little. He wasn't sure when, or if, the blocks would be removed.
School officials and parents are talking about the next move, he said.
After all, there are plenty of educational uses for social media. And no matter what the school does to its own computers, many students will have ready access. For many teens, getting onto Facebook or Twitter is as easy as swiping a cellphone screen.
Then, there's the murky territory of tracking down the bullies.
"You could spend an enormous amount of time tracking down the perpetrators behind these anonymous posts," Galway said.
If it works, the No Bull project would be a different kind of weapon. Rather than pulling the mean kids into the open, the project hopes to bury them in online blasts.
"I hope that this has a tremendous impact on reducing cyberbullying, not only here but elsewhere," Galway said. "To me, where it's electronic in nature, the impact could be regional or national."
Chamberlain hopes it tips the scales in favor of victims.
"It shows there are a lot of people standing behind them against bullying," he said.