It seems like there’s no stopping tweens and teens from using the anonymous-messaging app Sarahah—except for one determined mom who is trying to end online bullying by starting a petition to get the app banned from the App Store and on Google Play.
Katrina (who doesn’t disclose her last name) from Queensland, Australia, created a Change.org petition after she read messages about her 13-year-old daughter on the app saying “I hope SHE KILLS HERSELF. Seriously no one would care.”
“I have been scared, broken and sick to my stomach ever since I read messages about my 13-year-old daughter [including the one written above]. No one, especially our youth, should have to read messages like this about them,” says Katrina in the petition.
The Sarahah app is the teenage slam book from hellBoth mother and daughter don’t know who wrote the messages because the comments are all anonymous. Loosely translated, Sarahah means “honesty” or “frankness” in Arabic and has become one of the most popular social media apps among tweens and teens. Back in September, the app reportedly has more than 90 million users. On Sarahah, users pose questions to their friends (who also need to be registered), or they can comment on the posts of friends who have the app, without being identified at all.
Since the petition was created, the app no longer appears in the App Store. It’s unclear if Sarahah was removed because of the petition, but Katrina has received more than 200,000 signatures so far and considers it a victory. In an update this week, she is still calling on Google Play to remove the app as well.
Both Apple’s app store and Google Play have policies and restrictions towards the submission of apps, including one on bullying and harassment.
“My daughter was told to ‘go kill herself’—and there’s growing number of horror stories from this app that doesn’t have proper bullying policies,” Katrina writes.
“No parent can stomach this abuse of their children and I cannot even imagine losing my beautiful, sweet girl to suicide. This is why we need to protect our children.”
In the petition, Katrina talks about a case in early 2017, when a 15-year-old teenage boy in the UK committed suicide after receiving insulting messages from a similar app called Sayat.me, which has since been shut down.
Katrina goes on to share another story about Amy “Dolly” Everett, an Australian 14-year-old girl and former model who took her own life earlier this year after she was bullied online. The news of her death shocked the country, and prompted Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to release a statement encouraging people to help prevent bullying both on and offline.
“I do not want my daughter or any other to become the next Dolly,” Katrina says.
According to Sarahah’s creator, Saudi Arabian app developer, Zain al-Abidin Tawfiq, the app was originally intended for use in the workplace as a way to provide constructive criticism without fearing retribution from colleagues and bosses. However, the app has taken off with teens, either fishing for compliments or using it to throw shade to others—and in extreme cases, bully and harass them.