What Sarahah Is All About and Why Google Removed It from the Play Store

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If you’re just coming across the social media app, Sarahah, for the first time, your oversight could be seen as venial. There are myriads of social media platforms out there and keeping tabs on all of them might be laborious.

Launched in 2016, the software has millions of members, a sizeable percentage of which are teens. Sometime last year, a mother filed an online petition against Sarahah, where she voiced her concerns about the modus operandi of the social network service.

What is Sarahah social media all about? Why was it removed from the Google Play Store and the App Store? These issues are expatiated in the heart of this article.

Understanding What Sarahah Is

Sarahah was designed in late 2016 by Zain al-Abidin Tawfiq, a Saudi Arabian developer, as a website that worked as an anonymous messaging service. When it was at the incipient stage, the idea behind the platform’s creation was a laudable one: It was conceived to provide a medium for workers to state honest opinions about their organization to their gaffers without facing any threat of getting the sack. Sarahah, as a matter of fact, means “honesty” in the Arabic language.

Tawfiq later expanded Sarahah’s reach beyond the workplace as he released updates on the site so that users could allow their friends, as well as acquaintances, to send texts anonymously and, once again, enable them to give feedback to an individual with friendships still remaining intact. Once a user signs up, they can share the Sarahah link with friends or post it on the Internet publicly.

The Sarahah website gained popularity in the Middle East and Africa in the first 6 months of 2017. In June 2017, the service released its mobile app version for Android and iOS in the United States and other countries.

About a month later, Snapchat, another social media app, got updated with a new feature known as Paperclip, allowing users to insert web links to Snapchat Stories as well as snaps. Owing to Snapchat’s great popularity among teenagers in America, they instantly started including Sarahah links in their Stories. This development helped the Sarahah mobile app to enjoy massive acceptance, despite that fact it says it’s only appropriate for people, aged 17 years and above. And later in the same month of July 2017, it was one of the most popular free apps on the Play Store and the App Store in the United States.

What Made Sarahah a Source of Concern among Parents?

Users register on Sarahah on the site or by getting the Android or iOS app. They will be given a link to share on social media networks. Anyone that clicks on this link can post anonymous comments of ANY TYPE. While the app asks users to post a constructive message, they are even allowed to include a photo in their profile. Tons of Sarahah members are even sharing their feedback, anonymously, on their Facebook accounts.

With the abrupt rush in Sarahah’s adoption by teenagers in America and other countries, concerns about cyber-bullying on the platform surfaced and became more worrisome among their parents. The service, definitely, did not invent the menace of cyber-bullying; however, its design, which enables users to send messages anonymously to their friends, facilitated the plan of some users to send racist or unprintable messages (including death threats) to other members.

Tawfiq claimed then that Sarahah used AI-based filtering systems for detecting offending texts and would’ve seen to it that they were blocked them from getting delivered to the intended recipients. But it would seem the filtering functionality is not foolproof.

One of the several public cases of cyber-bullying through this service was reported early January last year from a 14-year old teen from in the United Kingdom. The girl was sent harassing messages and was nearly bullied into doing harm against herself or into committing suicide.

Also, in August 2017, Sarahah had to handle some privacy concerns. According to The Intercept,  the mobile messaging application collected and uploaded the phone numbers and email addresses of its users from those contacts in their smartphone.  Tawfiq later said the feature should have been part of a scheduled “find your friends” option on Sarahah; he, however, added that the option has now been got rid of from its servers. Sarahah now claims it doesn’t save phone numbers or email addresses of its members.

What Led to Sarahah’s Removal from Google Play and iOS App Store?

The final development which sealed the fate of Sarahah mobile app was an online petition filed on the Change.org site. It was initiated by Katrina Collins in January 2018, who is a mother from Australia that stated her daughter, 13, had got harassing texts via the embattled social media network. This petition on Change.org quickly gained traction and got more than 400,000 online “signatures,” and in February of the same year, the petition led to the removal of Sarahah from the App Store and the Play Store.

The Current Status of Sarahah

Though Sarahah app isn’t available any longer on Google Play or the App Store, it still works smoothly if you got the program before it was removed. More importantly, the Sarahah site still remains functional for people to register and make use of the platform.

What is your take on this Sarahah’s issue? We would like to hear from you.

 

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