Burnbook – the app that seems to have been designed as a cyberbullying tool
We like to keep up to date with what’s happening in the world of apps, especially as the continuing trend of anonymous chat apps lends itself to cyberbullying. It does so in such an obvious way that we personally feel the app stores should be doing more to vet these kind of apps.
The latest one to garner some traction in the media is Burnbook. I am sure some will remember a movie called Mean Girls which starred a young Lindsay Lohan. The film itself outlined bullying activity in the offline sense and referred to a Burn Book. A book that the so called popular girls used to start rumours about other pupils in the school. So yes, now there’s an app which basically allows you to say what you want, to who you want without any reference to who you are.
The official line from the Apps creator, 23 year old Jonathan Lucas, is that it’s meant to be a ‘bastion of free speech.’ Or a place where users can ‘vent their gripes about friends, school or just talk about anything.’ When you log in though and see how the app is set up, in spite of the ‘rules’ pages that show up first, you can see why this platform lends itself to cyberbullying.
It has also been used to make threats against schools which has had police and school authorities on red alert. There has been a bomb threat as well as a gun at school threat. Both of which have resulted in schools going into lock down and the authorities involved.
In spite of this, there is a growing user base, admittedly not on the scale of someothign like SnapChat, which has it’s own issues, but there are still around 400K users on the Burnbook App and I would imagine this is growing. What is positive to see though is some members of the target demographic taking to social media to denounce the use of it and go and do something worthwhile with your life.
Jonathan was quick to defend his app -“Freedom of speech is not necessarily freedom of anonymity,” he added. “Anonymity is a privilege – not a right. If that privilege is abused, there are consequences.” And that in some cases they have reported issues to the police rather than the other way round.
Whilst that’s as maybe, it doesn’t explain why this app exists? What value does it add, if the majority of it’s target demographic see it as a platform to cyberbully and insult on? Wouldn’t morals take over and have you just remove the app from existence, or better yet, use your obvious development talents to build an app that actually adds value to people’s lives? Rather than, quite obviously in our opinion, jumping on the band wagon?
It’s all very well wanting a bastion of free speech. We don’t disagree with that. However, this reminds us of a line from Monica Lewinsky’s recent TED talk – The price of shame – ‘We talk a lot about our right to freedom of speech, but we need to talk more about our responsibility to freedom of speech’ – she knows a thing or two about cyberbullying, shaming and trolling having had to deal with it for the last 17 years, all day every day! Think about it.