Parents Are Fighting The Anonymous Hate In A Cyberbullying App With Anonymous Kindness
Vast swaths of the Internet are an anonymous cesspool of hate, gendered insults, and rape or death threats. It’s pretty easy to anonymously hate on anyone you want on the internet–even in places where you have to register to post in forums or leave comments, throwaway sock-puppet accounts are as easy to sign up for as a spare Gmail account. And yet, some app developers have apparently decided that it is–somehow–not easy enough to take a dump on another person online. To that end, the fine folk at Burnbook launched their app whose sole purpose is to anonymously post about other people at your school or in your town.
Some parents in one Pennsylvania town are fighting back against the tidal wave of anonymous hateful words that the Burnbook app has released in local schools. As WNEP Newswatch 16 reports, of course bullying happened at North Pocono High School before the arrival of Burnbook, but providing a free open platform for students to post anony-hate only exacerbated existing problems. But instead of trying to get the app banned, parents began to download it and use it themselves, flooding the stream of bile with anonymous positive messages and praise.
“Hope your day is filled with light and love! Love, an NP mom,” wrote one parent. Maybe kids will see the light thanks to these parents’ efforts, and maybe the adults’ use of the app will just make Burnbook too uncool to carry on using, but either way, chalk this one up as a nice story.
The Burnbook founders are, naturally, quick to point out that their terms of service forbid harassment, and are quick to defend themselves when schools, parents, and students complain of the app being used to bully individuals:
Does paving a road encourage someone to drink and drive? Of course not. When someone does drink and drive, do you destroy the whole road? no
— Burnbook (@Burnbookapp) March 19, 2015
Since their Twitter stream also touts their celebration of ‘freedom of expression’, I hope they won’t mind if I use my freedom of expression to say that their app 1.) sucks and 2.) doesn’t have quite the same utility as a public road. A better analogy might be, “If you make a stick to hit other people with, and someone uses the stick to hit other people, should you take the stick away?” Yes, you probably should, but that’s just the cynical opinion of someone who’s not buying the “we just want people to be nice!” argument from an app named after the antagonist’s book of secret insults from Mean Girls. It’s great that parents are taking this stand, but what would be even greater would be if they didn’t have to.
(Image: Burnbook app)