Anonymous Social Media

Nimasha Fernando

nfernan1@umbc.edu

Anonymous social media platforms provide users with a free space for expression, however there is real potential for site to be abused and private information to be revealed.

    “[On Facebook] you have one identity … The days of you having a different image for your work friends [and] for the other people you know are probably coming to an end . . . Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity” said Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, in an article by The Guardian.

A novel form of social media is altering this sense of public communication. Anonymous sites such as Whisper, Secret, or Yik Yak are fast becoming the communication of choice for countless young people. Such sites permit users to anonymously post brief messages to those in their proximity.

“Social networking has changed the way we socialize – we’ve lost the ability to be open and vulnerable with one another, because we’re always worrying about the permanent record” said co-founder of the Secret app, Chrys Bader-Wechseler, in an article from The Guardian.

“We want to lower the bar . . . so that friends can let themselves be vulnerable again” said Bader-Wechseler, referring to how his app allows users to post messages that can only be read by those associated with the phone’s contact list.

Despite positive hopes, Yik Yak, another anonymous social media platform that allows the physically nearest 500 users to read an individual’s posts, is blamed for providing a medium for dangerous abuse and threats, including a number of high school lockdowns and evacuations.

After posting school shooting plans and terrorist threats on Yik Yak, two Alabama students were arrested, prompting Yik Yak to disable their service around 180,000 U.S. schools.

Even on these reportedly anonymous sites, the possibility of security breaches jeopardizing personal information persists. Hackers recently penetrated the Snapchat system, revealing the usernames and phone numbers of 4.6 million users according to a New York Times online post.

The article also reports that Snapchat messages, popular for their quick reveal and deletion, may not actually be destroyed. Researchers found that under some circumstances, images and their metadata, such as the time a message was sent or received, can still be accessed on phones.

In the midst of privacy and abuse concerns, such anonymous social media sites have resulted in select positive results. There are stories of individuals posting suicide thoughts on a public site and receiving positive, uplifting comments from other users, reported Tyler Droll, co-founder of Yik Yak, in The Guardian.

One student reportedly used Yik Yak to convince nearly 1,000 local readers to have their mouths swabbed with the hope of identifying a blood donor match for a relative affected with lymphoma, reported Droll.

Anonymous social media platforms are growing hubs of communication. However users must be cognizant of the material they are sharing and the potential for leakage or exploitation of the information they intended to be private.

“Security and social media rarely go hand-in-hand” said CEO of Hootsuite Ryan Holmes in a LinkedIn article.

 

Sources

Burkeman, Oliver. “Do the New Anonymous Social Media Sites Encourage Us to Overshare?” The Guardian. N.p., 6 June 2014. Web. 26 Sept. 2014. <http%3A%2F%2Fwww.theguardian.com%2Ftechnology%2F2014%2Fjun%2F07%2Fanonymous-social-media-apps-encourage-overshare>.

Holmes, Ryan. “Are You Really Anonymous on Snapchat? A Closer Look at Social Media Security.” World’s Largest Professional Network. Linkedin, 5 Feb. 2014. Web. 26 Sept. 2014. <http://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20140205173606-2967511-are-you-really-anonymous-on-snapchat-a-closer-look-at-social-media-security>.

Kelly, Heather. “Anonymous Social Apps Provide Forum for Gripes, Gossip.” CNN. Cable News Network, 28 Feb. 2014. Web. 26 Sept. 2014. <http://www.cnn.com/2014/02/28/tech/social-media/secret-social-apps/index.html>.

Perlroth, Nicole, and Jenna Wortham. “Snapchat Breach Exposes Weak Security.” Bits Snapchat Breach Exposes Weak Security Comments. The New York Times, 4 Jan. 2014. Web. 26 Sept. 2014. <http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/01/02/snapchat-breach-exposes-weak-security/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0>.