Well, parents, a new app called Truth launched this month and it has a shot at being the worst cyberbullying platform out there. Yik Yak and Ask.fm may pale in comparison to how few socially redeeming qualities Truth ends up having if it takes off with teens.
The concept behind Truth is an interesting one. After downloading Truth, users can anonymously message anyone who is already in their phone’s contact list. If the recipient has also downloaded the app, the recipient can view the message but has no indication whatsoever who the sender is. If the recipient is not yet a Truth user, he receives a text message showing part of the message and prompting him to download the app to see the full message. Again, the recipient will have no indication of who sent the message.
This app has a shot at going viral – many people receiving part of a message about them will not be able to resist the urge to download the app to see the rest of it.
The problem with the app is that is almost exclusively useful for two things – cyberbullying someone or stalking/creeping a person you have a crush on.
Canadian technology website BetaKit wrote a story about Truth earlier this month, and in it cofounder Ali Saheli, when asked about the cyberbullying potential, is quoted as saying:
“in two to three weeks of the app being live it has been used mainly for flirting between high school and university-aged people. It has also been used for minor, “fun” pranking between friends. Less than five percent of all content has been negative.”
We have a problem with that. If they are monitoring private anonymous messages to the extent that they know how many of them are abusive, that’s an invasion of privacy. It’s doubtful that they are, and that estimate could very well be a guess. The real number is probably much higher.
I had the pleasure of speaking with technology startup mentor Aron Solomon today, after exchanging messages on Twitter. He met with Truth when they were raising money earlier this year. His opinion of whether Truth is a “good” thing is pretty clear:
“So I am a startup mentor at Montreal’s FounderFuel. I met [Truth] on Mentor Day, very early in their cohort – I learned about Truth that morning. Their investors think it’s the greatest thing ever. I told them immediately that it was a terrible idea. I told them that it would be used for cyberbullying and that, like all anonymous apps, people could actually lose their lives because of it. I told them to stop building Truth and to do something meaningful with their lives, build something that helps instead of hurts people. One of their investors (from Real Ventures) said “Yeah, but if they don’t build this, someone else will,” which, to be [honest], is abhorrent.”
We wrote last month about the new trend of some venture capitalists steering clear of investments in companies linked to cyberbullying. Some are, but not all.
Truth’s Terms of Service state that users must be 18 years of age, but as is the case with most apps, that age limit doesn’t look to be enforceable, whether they want to enforce it or not. They probably don’t since Truth admits that many of its users are high school students.
One more thing… If your teen is using the Truth app for cyberbullying, and this thing takes off, it is going to be hacked at some point, potentially exposing the real identities of the bullies. We don’t mean to protect or defend cyberbullies, but the current proliferation of anonymous apps and networks have bullies acting with impunity, and kids who would otherwise refrain from bullying joining in because the risk of exposure seems so low. At some point, it will not be.
Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.