An App That Promoted Cyberbullying Shifts to the Workplace

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Sarahah, the anonymous gossip app notorious for promoting cyberbullying among teens, is pivoting to the workplace. On Thursday, the company launched a second private messaging app, Enoff, which aims to combat workplace harassment by providing an anonymous platform for employee feedback. Enoff joins a crowded field of apps and platforms designed to provide a safer venue for workers to report sexual misconduct and other pressing workplace issues, inviting the question of whether another is really necessary from a company with a complicated history of enabling online harassment.

Last February, almost a year after it launched, Sarahah was banned from Apple’s App Store and the Google Play store after it was accused of facilitating harassment against its primarily teenage users. In the summer of 2017 Sarahah had topped app store charts around the world. The app’s name means “honesty” in Arabic, and it operated as a Gen Z version of anonymous Q&A platforms Formspring.me and Ask.fm. Sarahah users created a public profile, which allowed visitors to leave anonymous “constructive feedback” for the account holder in the name of self-improvement. Like many things on the internet, it quickly devolved into toxicity. An online petition calling for the removal of Sarahah, which the author described as “a breeding ground for hate,” received nearly 470,000 signatures shortly before the app was made unavailable to iPhone and Android users.

A simulated conversation on the Enoff app.

Sarahah

Zain-Alabdin Tawfiq, founder and CEO of Sarahah, originally intended for the app to be used by employees to offer constructive feedback for their bosses, but it instead took off with a much younger crowd, who recognized its potential for drama. Enoff more closely aligns with Tawfiq’s original intentions. Before any employees can join, companies and organizations must first create an account. Once a company has been verified by the Enoff team, it will receive a sign-up code and a link to hand out to anyone the company deems fit to use the platform. Users who sign up using that company’s code or link aren’t required to provide an email address, just a username and password, which remain anonymous. Users can then send “reports” detailing workplace issues such as safety, harassment, discrimination, theft embezzlement, and employee relations through predefined categories.

Unlike other confidential workplace reporting apps like Bravely, We Said Enough, tEQuitable or Callisto, issues reported through Enoff are sent directly to the company rather than to an independent ombudsperson or legal consultant. Reports take the form of a direct message, allowing representatives from the company to follow up with the anonymous user if they need more information and take next steps.

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Tawfiq says that Enoff differs from competing anonymous reporting platforms because of its sign-up policies, which don’t require users to verify that they work at a particular organization; they only have to have the company’s join link or code. That means the company won’t be able to identify anonymous comments by email or IP addresses. “Having an app that does not require information that is corporate [identifiable] information such as their email will give users the confidence to report issues,” Tawfiq says.

Tawfiq says that Sarahah’s issues shouldn’t affect the way users view Enoff, as Sarahah has recently taken measures to prevent misuse, including instituting reporting tools for users to flag harassment and filtering out messages that include keywords associated with cyberbullying. “Enoff is a bit different in that it's a controlled environment,” he says, adding, “and it is also required that the user is above 17 years of age.”

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