Ethical Issues in Anonymous Apps & Websites

Anonymous media outlets have been in the radar for quite some time. Weather it be an app like Whisper or Secret or a website life Ask.fm they have all gone under the scrutiny of ethical controversies cause of bullying comments.

These media outlets let users post comments or question in anonymous manner. But what happens when the content abuses users to the extent of suicide. Hannah Smith, a 14-year-old girl from Latvia hanged herself at her family’s home after suffering months of bullying. Since then there have been over 17 victims hat have taken their lives because of the abusive questions and comments in the websites. The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children reports that 1 in 5 children is harassed in social networks.

In response to the controversies CEO’s and safety officers have established new regulations. Doug Leeds, CEO of Ask.fm, says that they will do whatever it takes to make the service safe as possible. Ask.fm plans to employee a new team of digital safety experts to effectively filter and moderate the content. Catherine Teitelbaum, Yahoo!’s director of global safety and product policy is now part of Ask.fm team as Chief Trust and Safety Officer.

But for marketers these apps are a huge opportunity for advertising platforms. “It’s a way to access the millennial audience, and that’s a very difficult audience to reach.” Said Eric Yellin, content distributor at Whisper.

Anonymity is a double edge sword. For young people this can be a weapon to harm others, but for others these apps are a platform for honest conversation with out judgment. Where do you stand? Are these apps harmful or helpful?

The other side of the coin can be seen through the eyes of the app creators. “These apps are demonized because they’re new,” said Lee Tien, senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit that supports digital rights.

Users hold the ultimate responsibility for safety in both online and in the real world. They should be clear of the fact that the content of their posts affect other. CEO’s say that they shouldn’t blame the app but the user because of the abusive comments they post.

After these tragedies Ask.fm, Whisper, and Secret are carefully filtering the content to ensure a safe environment. The have enable the apps to show the user, so now they aren’t completely anonymous.

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2 Responses to Ethical Issues in Anonymous Apps & Websites

  1. Christina Scheblein says:

    I believe this issue can be compared to the people that sue McDonald’s for making them fat. So much blame is put on external sources, when the problem starts with the person behind the Big Mac, or in this case the computer.

    People should better equip themselves to make smarter choices on the internet and learn how to deal with cruelty on the internet as well as their feelings about what others say on the internet.

  2. veronica perez says:

    Christina,

    I agree that it is not the company’s fault that users are using these outlets to harm others. Technology is just a tool, the problem is with the person behind the computer. Luckily CEOs are taking the correct steps to prevent harrasment and establish filters. It is a shared responsibility of both apps and users to act responsibly online to prevent cases like this to happen.

    Thank you for commenting.

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