Sarahah app is a great concept, but there's just one problem...

 

Sarahah app is a great concept, but theres just one problem...

Dubai - It could be a nice little playground for cyber-bullies.

By Alvin R. Cabral

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Published: Thu 17 Aug 2017, 3:45 PM

Last updated: Thu 17 Aug 2017, 8:59 PM

In case you missed it, there's an app making waves in cyberspace - and those waves are both calm and potentially tidal.
Sarahah, the brainchild of Saudi programmer ZainAlabdiin Tawfiq, has one sole purpose: to send 'constructive messages' to people.
Anonymously.
In other words, you'll never know who sent you some positive, possibly life-changing words. However, you also won't be able to figure out who just dissed you.
Sounds like the perfect playground for encouraging people. Or courting. Or - yikes - cyber-bullying.
Oh, and 'sarahah' is the Arabic term for 'honesty'.
The app, which has quietly gained a massive following, was originally designed for the workplace, enabling staff to send anonymous feedback to anyone (and quite possibly profess your admiration to your huge crush).
And while indeed it has shot up the charts - the BBC reported that the app got over 270 million views and 20 million users in just a few weeks - Sarahah has been polarising: as at this writing, there were 17,695 five-star reviews on Google Play - with 14,871 one-star ratings as well.
Flipping through the first pages of the reviews (what, you expect me to rummage through all 45,238 reviews?), I saw a common denominator in those low reviews, and that's on the issue that the platform may allow cyber-bullying - though those higher ratings have mostly praised the concept of it.
Stuff New Zealand, meanwhile, ran a story today with a headline that speaks for itself: 'New arsenal for online teenage bullies in anonymous Sarahah app'. It reported that a school has told their students to take screenshots of disturbing messages, and that it was working with local police to "minimise the potential harm".
How does it work?
After downloading it (obviously) either from Google Play or the App Store, you naturally have to register by creating a user name and password, and providing your name and e-mail address.
No mobile number is required, a nod to its dedication to privacy. And you don't even need to verify your account on the e-mail addy you've provided.
Once that's done, you can start firing away. You can share your profile to others via your other social media accounts...

 
...or play a little game of cyber-Russian roulette with the search users tab.

 
Once you've selected your victim the user you wish to cheer up, just tap on it and type away - and make sure it's constructive (as it is explicitly advised):

 
Here's one more thing: you can't reply to any message, and many users have clamored for this. (I'm starting to think that having a reply feature could result into a full-scale cyber-word war if users sling pretty nasty things at each other.)
So far, I haven't received any messages (and that's good, because I really have a short fuse with bullies and ego-trippers). Good news: you can choose to block senders who've sent you some pretty mean words, so even though you don't know who they are, you won't hear from them ever again (unless they create a new account, right?).
However, you can minimise some potential damage by choosing not to appear in searches and not receive messages from non-registered users:

 
Now, going back to that cyber-bullying thing, Tawfiq, in an exclusive interview with India Today, said that while identities will never be revealed, they would be prodded to do so "in certain circumstances where there is a violation [of the terms and conditions on privacy policy]".
Sounds fair - for now - but that really won't stop idiotic keyboard warriors from doing their thing; one message could be enough to break someone's spirit.
But Tawfiq has promised that there will be more features to be rolled out in the future - and we earnestly hope that among them will be something that addresses this issue in a rather great app.
People, we're begging you to respect everyone.
- alvin@khaleejtimes.com


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