Suddenly popular social apps put children at risk


Anonymous apps like this YOLO, Whisper, and the now-defunct Ask.fm are related to cyberbullying, pedophilia, spontaneous photo sharing, and Even children commit suicide. Concerns about these applications are mainly focused on their anonymity, because they allow people to talk only within a limited range of responsibilities.But they are also risky because they usually become Unexpectedly popular. Such anonymous applications often become more and more popular outside of the craziest dreams of their founders, making them unprepared to fully expand the scope of their content review, thereby protecting their young user base.

Kids can make apps from zero to unmanageable in just a few days, but anonymous apps often only have short-term success because they become too dangerous and the app store deletes them or their founders shut down.For the recent Instagram kids, Anonymous applications constitute one of the biggest threats to children’s safety.

Take Sarahah as an example. Founded in 2016, The app is designed to provide anonymous feedback to your colleagues. It invites anyone with a link to answer users’ questions anonymously.More than Founder’s surprise, Sarah (Sarahah) soon Kidnapped by a teenager At a certain moment attracted amazing eyes 300 million users. Researchers don’t know much about the issues raised by teenagers, and most negative news reports may not reflect the actual situation of the app.But we do know that users Does not always show the best behavior: Sarahah complains about cyberbullying more than complaints that cannot be handled safely, so subsequently Remove from app store In 2018.

Sarahah is a surprisingly perfect example: the app didn’t crash because of unpopularity, but because it became and also Popular too fast. Its founder was unable to expand the scale of its content review in time to protect its unexpected child user base.Not all social media startups Assuming they will make money early, Which means that the moderate level of expertise and staffing brought by the surprising popularity is usually severely insufficient.

Secret, an anonymous application created in 2014, suffered the same fate. The application allows users to share “secret” information with friends, so it is very popular among children, Top spot Available in app stores in eight countries/regions.But former CEO David Byttow said his team could not “control” The user’s level of cyberbullying and other harassment caused him to close the app in 2015 (that is, less than a year after launch).

The sudden popularity of anonymous applications poses a huge risk to the safety of children, but they do not seem to have received as much attention as large companies. As far as I know, no country/region today has laws that require social media startups to have a team of content reviewers, or give them a specific form. This means that children can use most unsupervised anonymous applications, which can be used not only by parents, but also by application workers.

More and more people realize that smaller companies may have different obligations than more mature participants, but whether these obligations are loose or tight remains to be negotiated. For example, the new “Online Harm Act” in the United Kingdom proposes “Layered approachIn its regulatory framework, companies are divided into two categories based on the size and function of the user base (including the ability to communicate anonymously).But as the UK’s 5Rights Foundation notesThe tiered system proposal cannot explain the popularity of surprise services, which started with a small audience group, but quickly grew.In order to protect young users, the organization debate Ofcom, the UK’s communications regulator and competition authority, “must ensure that new services with high risks must comply with the necessary regulatory requirements before they meet the requirements. [larger tier] critical point. “

Regulating new anonymous applications is a tricky balancing act: Do they need loose regulations to enable them to grow? Or do they need stricter rules because the lack of supervision may make their young users more vulnerable? When kids use global popular apps such as Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat, they will also be attracted by apps that have never been heard of before, and the one-size-fits-all policy can only imagine that the established platform will never be able to cope with the unique The challenge is welcomed by the surprise app.



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