The Brief: The latest anonymous messaging app, YOLO is rapidly growing in popularity, while its potential to be used for harassment raises concerns among parents and anti-bullying advocates.
YOLO: Anonymous Questions has risen to the #1 spot in the App Store in the U.S., just a week after its release. YOLO connects to Snapchat to allow users to solicit anonymous feedback from their Snapchat friends. YOLO is created by the developer Popshow and uses Snapchat’s Snap Kit to link to the app. After downloading YOLO, users are prompted to sync their Bitmoji to the app and then post a Snapchat story with a sticker asking for anonymous feedback. Their friends can then respond through this feature, providing feedback that can be positive, negative, or anywhere in between.
In its features and design, this app is geared towards teenagers and Gen Z-ers. YOLO is an acronym for “you only live once.” The app encourages people to find out what people ‘really’ think about them, a task that is as enticing for young people as it is dangerous.
YOLO is one of many anonymous messaging apps that caters to young audiences. Apps including Yik Yak, Sarahah, Secret, and others captured the attention of many young people but ultimately failed after the issues arose with bullying, trolling, and harassment.
The app is rated for users aged 12 and up, a cutoff that seems low, especially considering the impact that bullying can have on young people’s mental health.
Bullying, Trolling, Harassment, And Hate Speech
Unfortunately, anonymity online almost always leads to some form of harassment, bullying, trolling, and even hate speech. YOLO is no exception.
YOLO officially prohibits “objectionable content or abusive users,” but there is still room for the app’s features to be used in such a way. The app warns users that if they use it in a harmful way that their identities will be revealed, but reports indicate that this is not happening. According to reviews, some users have reported that they’ve been exposed to negative comments, harassment, and even threats.
When interviewed for an article in Tech Crunch, the app’s developers indicated that they did not anticipate the viral success of YOLO and that they are working to ensure that the app will work for such large audiences while avoiding issues with harmful messages.
In an effort to avoid some instances of bullying, it appears that Yolo’s developers have implemented software that filters potentially harmful words and phrases from messages. According to several user reviews on Apple’s App Store, the scope of this feature is limited, and messages can be unintelligible after words have been removed without the sender’s knowledge.
This issue is not new in the world of social media. Algorithmic filtering techniques often are inadequate when it comes to monitoring and decoding nuanced human interactions. While it’s certainly a good sign that Popshow is taking steps to curb hateful YOLO messages, the effectiveness of this tool, especially for such a rapidly growing user base, is not entirely clear.
When it comes to anonymous messaging apps, there are significant risks that they will be used to send harmful messages, especially when teenagers are the primary audience. As YOLO’s popularity skyrockets, it is essential that the app creators build safeguards against bullying. In the meantime, implementing internet safety and privacy practices and having open conversations with children about apps like this are key to fostering a healthy online presence. For more information on apps like YOLO, check out StayHipp’s App Guide.