2019 marks the 10th year I have been educating online users in the risks of the environments they are working and playing in. Regular visitors of my blogs and those who have seen me present, regularly hear me say 'enough is enough', 'how can this happen' and 'where is the responsibility of creators'.
Hundreds of thousands of Australians have heard my messages and I am regularly inspired by the support I receive here and overseas. But I am getting so frustrated with how often I am repeating those statements. The latest App to show its ugly head in Australia is the German based chat platform called Tellonym, which according to one of its co-creators Max Rellin is the 'most honest place on the internet' and is designed to 'be a bit of fun'.
Tellonym is a simple App where a user can create an account with simple ease and no real joining criteria. You simply tick the box to state that you are 'over 17', create a user name and a password, provide an email address (which is not confirmed or authorised) and bingo, you are in! Once your account is created you can then send statements or questions to any other user on the network. These are called 'Tells' and you can ask or state anything you want without any moderation or control. What could possibly go wrong!!!
It is a completely anonymous network and you can say and ask exactly what you want without restraint. Tellonym boasts 13 million active users globally and I am seeing it more and more in Australian schools. What I am reading is the most horrific comments targeting the most innocent of users and it is one of the worst platforms I have seen for cyber bullying in some time.
It is right up there with Apps such as Sarahah and ASK.fm, which are equally as offensive and run out of Saudi Arabia and Latvia respectively. Most recently I have read a series of comments targeting a 14 year old girl on the network which would be enough to break the heart of any parent. She had no idea of what was being said about her on Tellonym until it was brought to her attention by a peer. She wasthen exposed to these vile comments and when the perpetrators realised she was on the App, they began to target her directly. As this girl tried in vain to defend herself, she was subjected to some of the most horrific comments. Already suffering from mental health issues, she was told on numerous accounts she should kill herself, with many users telling her exactly how she should do it.
Tellonym has been designed and launched without any real level of security or safety and with absolutely zero moderation of content and protection for users. What the creators pride themselves on is the anonymity of the App, almost promoting how easy it is to get away with such abhorrent behaviour. With all we know globally about the effects of cyber bullying on our youth, how can this still be allowed to happen?
How can such an App be created and launched with such ease and with little or no safety standards or accountability? In the real world you cannot create ANY physical environment, especially where the public are involved, without the strictest levels of accountability, safety and responsibility. You can't even get past an idea without jumping through a large number of hoops. Yet in the online world, any developer looking for a quick buck can create the most open playground for our kids and face absolutely zero questions of accountability for the creation of that space. I am trying my best to change this, but I will be honest, it is getting harder and harder to fight this fight. It is time governments around the world to act on the accountability of such App creators and to start putting truly authentic criteria in place for the creation of such environments and for the true protection of users and non-users.
It cannot be left to parents, educators and users to do it themselves. Enough is Enough!