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Sarahah: App for Honesty Or Breeding Ground for Hostility? Why it Reflects Wrong Belief System in Our Society!

It is at the top of app store's charts and in the race to beat all popular social media platforms. But what is the other aspect of Sarahah that poses danger to individuals and their impressionist minds?

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mobile apps that all women should have
In this digital age, what are the selective few mobile apps that all women must have on their phones? Wikimedia
  • In the age of instant messaging, Sarahah has now entered the race as a new contender
  • The application lets you send and receive message while hidden behind a screen and a cloak of anonymity
  • The new fad has raised concerns among parents and adults alike, as the app potentially poses threats of cyber bullying and hatred

New Delhi, August 14, 2017: If you have been keeping up with anonymous instant messaging fads of the present generation, you will be familiar with apps like Yik Yak, Whisper, Sayat.me and Ask.fm. You are already picturing stories about bullying, racism and all kinds of other demeaning behavior, aren’t you? Anyone looking for an instant messaging app today is spoilt for a choice; there are just so many of them out there! For the last one week, I have been noticing my Facebook feed flooded with people wanting to know ‘what I think about them, but in private’ –by sharing a link to something called Sarahah.

The demise of previously popular anonymous apps like Yik Yak and Ask.fm did not signal the end of a secret sharing app, with a new anonymous message service called Sarahah, riding high on the free app charts, and taking up all of the social media, albeit a little worrying.

Sarahah has garnered immense interest ever since it was launched in June this year by a Saudi Arabian developer. Like we didn’t already have enough problems fostering on different social media handles in the forms of ‘friendly’ trolls, stalkers, and sociopaths that we have another ‘liberal’ player?

Leaving Not-So-‘Constructive’ Messages With Sarahah

Loosely translated to ‘openness’ or ‘honesty’, the app was originally a website introduced in February this year by a developer from Saudi Arabia Zain al-Abidin Tawfiq, conceptualized for employees to give honest feedback about their bosses without revealing their identity. However, the app soon became big when people in the Middle East and North Africa began imploring comments from strangers and friends, eventually being picked up by people in the West. Three months later, Sarahah ranks fourth on iOS’ trending apps’ charts and has been downloaded over 5 million times on Google play.

Users sign up and get a unique link which can be then shared on different social media and with friends and followers. Anyone with the link to your personal account is invited by the app to “Leave a constructive message :).”

In an attempt to counter the innumerable phishing accounts, social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have long insisted that users register with their real identities. While these platforms continue to be bugged by trolls and online abuse, it, to an extent, helps mitigate cyber bullying and harassment. However, I don’t see the good in allowing users to speak with people anonymously; this can potentially inflict irrevocable damage.

Humans have since long loved to indulge in gossip, which is what draws an increasing amount of people to register with the app. However, while everybody wants to know gossip, nobody wants to be the gossip. Things turn ugly when you are at the receiving end of such trolls.

People feel free to be their worst selves in the aid of anonymity because of which these services are often plagued by bullying and threats of violence.

Sarahah is not a first-of-its kind app, as there have been numerous instant-messaging apps before it that have worked on similar principles. While it cannot be denied that those apps became popular overnight and generated huge profits, another undeniable fact prevails that they all failed in the long run.

While anonymous apps offer an escape from putting up your ‘best face’ on the Internet by letting you say what you truly feel and allowing you to put your ‘true face’, they come with an expiration date. The reason being the very X-factor of these apps- anonymity.

People essentially rely on social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn to make and sustain relationships. Without any identity and a name to associate with your words, it is impossible to form, maintain and strengthen lasting relationships with others. This associative identity has an inherent continuity, which anonymity doesn’t.

Today, Sarahah has found a massive following, but at what expense? In order to know more about the new fad, reporter Soha Kala from NewsGram spoke with people who have been on the application for a few days, with most people sharing similar feedback-

  • Receiving ‘honest’ feedback is good, but most posts turn offensive after a while
  • Seeking feedback is constructive. But what is the need to share it with the world via social media?
  • A big problem here is the anonymity. Imagine receiving anonymous threats, wouldn’t that augment the danger associated with the message?
  • What’s even more interesting is that a person cannot ‘reply’ to a received message. Pressing the reply button on Sarahah allows the user to forward the message to all different social media platforms.

Sarahah is an anonymous instant messaging app.
While some people may use Sarahah for constructive words, it has also become a breeding ground for lewd opinion-holders. Facebook

I will not ask you to succumb to my judgment of the app and instead take a detached stand for the sake of the argument. Assuming that the app doesn’t take the form of cyber bullying and one receives only genuine messages of appreciation and gratitude; of people professing their affection to you. But what will be the point of such messages when you cannot know who has sent it, not to forget there is no way to connect with your secret admirer unless of course, you announce it publicly over social media handles. But here’s another catch—even then it depends on the secret admirer whether he wants to reveal himself to you or not. Doesn’t this make the entire argument a little counter-productive?

Another fact that cannot be denied here is that once you are in, the freedom to hide behind a cloak of anonymity and not be associated whatsoever with your real-world identity is strangely alluring.  This provides people with a good opportunity to revel on opinions that they otherwise wouldn’t mouth, of course, in an un-accountable manner or maybe in the form of intended ‘joke’.

This tongue-in-cheek humor, even when anonymous, can be hurtful.

Jokes after all have been long used to soften potentially demeaning point-making. They’re used everywhere – in the form of cheeky placards at protests, at late night comedy shows, during speeches, even at political sessions at the Parliament! Sadly, hatred too, has adopted the pretext of ‘jokes’ to spread its message using such platforms

What happens though when hatred sells so easily as a joke?

And what happens when these apps essentially celebrate such garbage behavior and project that this violence is funny or ‘light-hearted’?

We are always told to take criticism in our stride with a pinch of salt. But who draws the line between criticism and bullying?

A question to be asked here is, what happens when Sarahah stops being taken in ‘good fun’?

Like there are two sides to every coin, on one hand these applications can promote a more patient culture, encouraging people to deal constructively with criticism. It won’t be wrong to say that this can ‘normalize hatred’ to an extent, suggesting that we live in a balanced world with both, winners and losers; where we do both right and wrong and get reprimanded for either.

However, the other, more shattering aspect leads to hatred being embedded into the mainstream culture. Judgment, fear, and its common companion-hostility/violence are becoming a normalized part of our thought-process, eventually also seeking into everyday conversations.

ALSO READ: Children’s Commissioner for England Warns against Overuse of Social Media among Children

In such a scenario, the rise of such platforms that thrive on principles on anonymity, turn ruinous when haters find like-minded people across borders of time and/or distance. This empowers haters, with their networks expanding to magnanimous standards. It is in this context that can be said that anonymous messaging apps like Sarahah reflect every thing that is wrong with our society- it has transformed into a breeding ground for hostile behavior and opinions.

[sociallocker][/sociallocker]

Recent months have seen acts of hate directed towards transgenders, African-Americans, Muslims and many others. Children have, since long reported cases of cyber bullying and the tally of social media stalking and threatening has been ever increasing. In such a scenario, what solutions do you see apps that operate in anonymity provide?

The Blue Whale Challenge is also a clear example of how social media and the Internet can make things ugly. For a person suffering from low self-esteem, the app can have huge implications.

Would we really want to indulge in that?


NewsGram is a Chicago-based non-profit media organization. We depend upon support from our readers to maintain our objective reporting. Show your support by Donating to NewsGram. Donations to NewsGram are tax-exempt.

 

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Send Your own Nudes to Facebook to Stop Revenge Porn

Facebook is testing a new method to stop revenge porn that requires you to send your own nudes to yourself via the social network's Messenger app

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Send your own nudes
Send your own nudes via messenger app to yourself.Pixabay.

Sydney, Nov 9: Facebook is testing a new method to stop revenge porn that requires you to send your own nudes to yourself via the social network’s Messenger app.

This strategy would help Facebook to create a digital fingerprint for the picture and mark it as non-consensual explicit media.

So if a relationship goes sour, you could take proactive steps to prevent any intimate images in possession of your former love interest from being shared widely on Facebook or instagram.

Facebook is partnering with a Australian government agency to prevent such image-based abuses, the Australia Broadcasting Corp reported.

If you’re worried your intimate photos will end up on Instagram or Facebook, you can get in contact with Australi’s e-Safety Commissioner. They might then tell you to send your own nudes to yourself on Messenger.

send your own nudes to yourself
Facebook is coming up with a method to prevent revenge porn if you send your own nudes to yourself. Pixabay.

“It would be like sending yourself your image in email, but obviously this is a much safer, secure end-to-end way of sending the image without sending it through the ether,” e-Safety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant told ABC.

Once the image is sent via Messenger, Facebook would use technology to “hash” it, which means creating a digital fingerprint or link.

“They’re not storing the image, they’re storing the link and using artificial intelligence and other photo-matching technologies,” Grant said.

“So if somebody tried to upload that same image, which would have the same digital footprint or hash value, it will be prevented from being uploaded,” she explained.

Australia is one of four countries taking part in the “industry-first” pilot which uses “cutting-edge technology” to prevent the re-sharing on images on its platforms, Facebook’s Head of Global Safety Antigone Davis was quoted as saying.

“The safety and wellbeing of the Facebook community is our top priority,” Davis said. (IANS)

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Delhi Smog : Bollywood Actors Varun Dhawan, Arjun Kapoor, Tapsee Pannu share Their concern on Social Media

Bollywood actors expresses their concern over Delhi Smog.

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Varun Dhawan shares his concern over Delhi Smog
Varun Dhawan shares his concern over Delhi Smog.Instagram
  • Delhi smog levels are going high day by day and have become a major health concern for delhiites.
  • Bollywood actors Arjun Kapoor, Varun Dhawan, Tapsee Bannu and other express their concern over Delhi Smog.

Bollywood Actors share messages about Delhi Smog

Delhi Smog has choked almost everyone’s breath. Actor Varun Dhawan who is currently shooting in Delhi for his movie ‘October’ gives a message to go green in his Instagram post. He is masked and taking a selfie with a sheet of thick smog in the background. He even captioned his selfie, “I have clicked this selfie to show you guys what actual smog looks like. I don’t want to preach I am equally to blame for this mess as most of the citizens of our great country, but now instead of blaming each other and the government let’s change. It’s time we go green. #delhichokes.”

Actors like Taapsee Pannu, Arjun Kapoor and Dia Mirza also shared their messages on social media. They wrote-

Arjun tweeted the video of an accident which took place on Yamuna Expressway today due to high level of smog.

Prepared By Pragya Mital f NewsGram | Twitter @PragyaMittal05

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Restrictions on Freedom of Expression : Pakistani Journalists Struggle with Growing Threats from Government and Militants alike

A recent cybercrime bill in Pakistan has become a vehicle for curbing media freedom, allowing the government to censor digital content, criminalize internet user activity and access bloggers' data without judicial review. Media defenders say the country's blasphemy laws also are being used to cut off public debate.

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Pakistani journalists protest to condemn an attack on their colleague, in Karachi, Pakistan, Monday, Oct. 30, 2017. Assailants riding on motorcycles have attacked an outspoken Pakistani journalist, leaving him badly hurt with head injuries. (AP Photo/Shakil Adil) VOA

Pakistan, November 2, 2017 : Journalists in Pakistan say they are facing increasing risks ranging from the government’s expanding control over social media to extremist threats that have spread from long-volatile regions to the streets of the capital.

The latest attack left a journalist badly beaten on a street in Islamabad. Earlier this year, security agencies picked up several bloggers from urban centers who said after their release that they had been tortured and humiliated.

Threats to reporters have long been a problem in volatile Baluchistan and the tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan, but the recent incidents have reinforced complaints by media groups that the danger is spreading to the nation’s heartland.

The victim of the beating in Islamabad was Ahmad Noorani, a senior reporter for the influential Daily News newspaper, who previously had been warned to close his Twitter account after criticizing the powerful military. The attack attracted widespread condemnation on social media, where many posts blamed Pakistan’s intelligence agencies for the attack.

Other journalists have been charged with violating the country’s vague Anti-Terrorism Act, which defines terrorism as creating “a sense of fear or insecurity in society.” Critics say it has broad potential for abuse.

Several bloggers critical of the government or the military have vanished for weeks, later saying they had been kidnapped by the intelligence services.

Popular blogger Asim Saeed was snatched by unknown men earlier this year. He told the BBC in an interview last week that he was picked up by Pakistan intelligence agencies and tortured during his detention.

Digital media rights activists, meanwhile, are warning that Pakistan is attempting to cut back on internet freedom.

“In my opinion, the government is terrifying the social media activists,” Usama Khilji, director of the internet freedom organization Bolo Bhi, told VOA’s Deewa service. “Social media is a democratic medium where people can express their thoughts without any restrictions. However, it has been observed, when people share their thoughts, the government feels insecure.”

Anwar Iqbal, a Washington-based senior journalist and correspondent for the leading English-language newspaper Daily Dawn, agreed.

“The Pakistani state feels vulnerable in the presence of growing social media and wants to stifle the discourse on topics it considers sensitive,” he said.

The state does not want media to discuss sensitive issues like relations with the U.S., China, Afghanistan and India, Iqbal said, particularly in light of President Donald Trump’s new policy for the region calling for Islamabad to crack down on terrorist safe havens.

Reports from watchdog groups

Human Rights Watch’s 2016 report said media were being deterred from reporting on or criticizing human rights violations by the security services.

“Many journalists increasingly practiced self-censorship, fearing retribution from both state security forces and militant groups. Media outlets remained under pressure to avoid reporting on or criticizing human rights violations by the military in counterterrorism operations,” the report said.

Reporters Without Borders, a global media watchdog, in its annual report this year, ranked Pakistan 139 of 180 countries on its Press Freedom Index, despite its reputation having one of the most free media environments in Asia. The report says the nation’s media “are targeted by extremist groups, Islamist organizations, and the feared intelligence agencies” — all of which are on the group’s list of “Predators of Press Freedom.”

Even when the threats come from extremist groups, journalists say, the government has done little to pursue the perpetrators.

But Interior Minister Talal Chaudry defended the government’s actions, suggesting the reporters should be doing more to protect themselves.

journalist
Journalist Zafar Achakzai, who was held for sharing content criticizing security forces on social media, sits in his office after being released from jail, in Quetta, Pakistan, July 9, 2017. VOA

“We have included insurance for journalists in the journalists ‘protection bill,” he said. “Sometimes, journalists are not trained or not properly equipped, and that is why they become victims of violence. We understand journalists are sometimes victims of violence, and that is why we are bringing a comprehensive bill for working journalists in the parliament.”

Journalists: Situation worsening

But many journalists say things are getting worse. A recent cybercrime bill has become a vehicle for curbing media freedom, allowing the government to censor digital content, criminalize internet user activity and access bloggers’ data without judicial review. Media defenders say the country’s blasphemy laws also are being used to cut off public debate.

“We have laws in place for social media, but it’s not being controlled,” Religious Affairs Minister Sardar Yousef told Deewa when asked how the government can avoid the blasphemy law from being misused against social media.

Such problems are longstanding in Pakistan’s troubled southwestern Baluchistan province, where newspapers have been shut down and newsstands shuttered for more than a week amid threats from militant groups claiming the local media are too supportive of the central government.

“The resistance [militant] groups are calling on boycotting all media houses, threatening press offices and journalists,” Behram Baloch, who is now working from home, told VOA. “To address this issue, we held a meeting here at the press club. We decided to suspend our activities for a while, and press club will remain closed. Our movement is limited, and many of our colleagues have left their jobs.”

Militants from separatist groups, banned by the state, threw a hand grenade at an office of a newspaper agency in Turbat, Baluchistan, injuring eight people.

“Journalists as well as the Newspaper Editors Council received threats. As a result, our workers were forced not to leave their homes. They include press workers and hawkers. We were, thus, unable to pick up newspapers [for delivery],” said Mir Ahmed, general secretary of the Newspapers Wholesalers Association.

“Life and death are in the hands of God.” (VOA)