Burnbook App Increasing Cyberbullying And Threats Against Schools

The new controversial Burnbook app is causing outrage amongst parents across the United States.

The term “Burn Book” was made popular through the cult classic film Mean Girls. In the movie, starring Lindsay Lohan, the popular girls, or the “mean girls,” used the book to start rumors and exploit their peers.

That is the idea behind the app; it allows people, the majority being high school and college students, to say whatever they want, about whoever they want, anonymously.

“Burnbook conveniently connects you with your community,” the description of the app reads. “Join a community to anonymously post pictures and text. Selectively blur parts of photos to hide those not so flattering moments. Save memorable moments to your device using the one-tap screenshot counter. Ultimately you, the Burnbook community, will decide through votes and comments what will stay and what must go!”

“Jokes, fails, wins, sightings, shout outs, revelations, proclamations and confessions – they all happen on Burnbook. Together, we can keep a secret. Without further interruption, welcome to the future of Social Networking. Welcome to Burnbook :)”

The app’s founder and CEO Jonathan Lucas, 23, explained that the intent of the app was to allow people to get things off their chest, vent, and basically talk about whatever they feel like talking about without being judged.

“We just really wanted a bastion of free speech,” Lucas said during a Skype interview with The Oregonian/OregonLive on Thursday, March 26.

Now, that “bastion of free speech” has paved a way for cyberbullies to attack.

“This app was created to increase cyber bullying,” one reviewer wrote on iTunes.com. “There’s no other reason it was created. “Burn book” is an iconic Mean Girls symbol for bullying so how can an app named “burn book” not be for bullying? If you haven’t downloaded the app: you find a community near you. These communities are schools. If your school is not a community, then you can make a community for your school. ANYONE can post ANYTHING they want. The app has become popular at my school and is specifically targeting a small group of people.”

The reviewer continued, “I wish I could repeat the evil things that were posted so I could get my point across but I cannot bring myself to spread those gruesome things even further. If you are a parent investigating an app on your child’s phone, I would advise that you IMMEDIATELY delete it. If you are a child looking to download it, please don’t! Be aware of the trouble you could get into and the pain you might cause. If Apple or the people at Burn Book are reading this, please take this app down! It is getting kids arrested and even killed. In no way, shape, or form will this app ever be used for something good. If I could rate it 0 stars, then I undoubtedly would!”

Burnbook is not only leading to an increased number of cyberbullies. It is now a way for users to make threats, specifically to schools. San Diego, California has seen the impact of the app after a user threatened to bring a gun to a high school in the area. Linda Zintz, a San Diego Unified School District spokeswoman, confirmed that they were receiving several threats per day via Burnbook.

“We had some bomb threats; we had some threats stating that someone had a gun on campus.”

“We’ve changed out objectionable content,” Lucas said in reference to the threats, according to Mashable.com. “In some cases, we’ve actually contacted the police before they’ve contacted us. Freedom of speech isn’t necessarily freedom of anonymity. Anonymity is a privilege, not a right. I that privilege is abused, there are consequences.”

Apparently the consequences are not severe enough as more threats are being made each day. Specifically, a threat against Lebanon High School in Oregon was made last week, forcing the school into lockdown. Principal Brad Shreve addressed the incident in a letter to the student’s parents.

“We are working hard to trace the genesis of this threat and ask that you monitor your student’s online presence and let us know if you have any information that would help our investigation,” Shreve wrote.

A McAfee blog has provided tips on talking to your children about the app. They suggest that you ask, explore, understand, pose key questions, teach sensitivity, share your concerns, and stress accountability and empathy.

[Photo via Twitter/Burnbook]

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