Two New Apps Bring Anonymous Hurt, Invective, Slurs and Toxicity to the Workplace
Always on the lookout for hot news about new apps and technology developments that may impact on our social, economic, cultural and political worlds, I have found the joys of the backlash against the Facebook revolution.
Edward Helmore revealed all in an article in The Observer (23 March 2014) where he argued that people in huge numbers are disillusioned with online ‘friends’ they hardly know. Tired of sharing personal information and thoughts which are then monetised, turned into marketing ammo against them.
Secret and Whisper are new apps that ‘capitalise on the trend to connect people anonymously or express opinions or ideas they might not share if their identities were revealed.’
Helmore reckoned that nowhere has the opportunity ‘to dish the dirt anonymously’ been taken up so enthusiastically than in Silicon Valley.
Now the hub of YS high tech is revealed as ‘ a hothouse of ambition, rivalry, jealousy and obsession.’ We might have guessed it was not the ‘place of hard-working, peaceable tech engineers’ many supposed.
The founder of Secret, David Byttow, told the New York Times that it is ‘a masquerade ball. You know who is there, but no one can see faces.’ Byttow and his mate Chrys Bader-Wechseler believe ‘people are more likely to hold honest conversations under the shroud of anonymity.
They strip out names. Already the perceived truth from this spread of anonymous opinion is costing jobs as Julie Ann Horvath quit GitHub where she was an engineer, because a ‘toxic workplace forced her out.’
She isn’t going to be the only one. Andrew Bosworth, senior Facebook vice president was accused of being a ‘power-hungry narcissist’ and slammed the medium as ‘hurtful without being helpful, invective without accountability.’
In April it emerged that Facebook was interested in teaming up with Secret! That sounds strange but there it is.
This app shares gossip outside the users’ immediate circle of friends. Neetzan Zimmerman is now part of this set up, as ‘editor in chief.’ He was at Gawker previously where the Wall Street Journal described his work (increasing traffic) as a ‘deep connection to his audience’s evolving, irreducibly human, primal sensibilities.’
Many argue that these sites (and others which will follow) speak ‘to prevailing anxiety about the internet in general and social media in particular.’ The whole debate about privacy and anonymity, predictive technologies, ownership of data and web content is still wide open and ongoing.
Perhaps the biggest fear is that such apps are a ‘parallel’ web’ running alongside a free and open web without any consequences, protection or rights from personal to copyright, or protections from criminal or pornographic materials?
Race to the Bottom
Understandably anyone on the end of personal, unattributable attacks will oppose the ability to make it so.
Ryan Holiday, the tech critic and writer, reckons that these apps ‘represent a race to the bottom in terms of web content.’ He accepts, though, that giving your name to a diatribe is no guarantee it will be honest, courteous, fair or civilised.
The fear is that it touches base with a darker side of human nature that is cruel and unfeeling.
The cry is that we now need ‘authenticated anonymity’ on the web (like newspapers publish unattributed letters only if they know the authors) or ‘self-sovereign identity.’
SnapChat’s self-deleting messaging was perhaps the forerunner. Now the debate accelerates in earnest.
What kind of web do we want?
Are we tired of the performance of the self?
Is anonymity necessarily a bad thing?
Does it make for more honesty?
Is that a good thing?
Can people genuinely express opinion with being hidden or cruel?
Also, have you seen?:
Making Money from Social Media Not As Easy As It Sounds, 3 March 2014
The Art of Complaining Publicised Online To Help Everyone, 5 February 2014
Three New Internet Dangers Should Set Alarm Bells Ringing, 17 December 2013
The Web Spreads Gratitude About Your Job! 25 September 2013
Image: Robert Thivierge