Brouhaha over Sarahah – pointing out inherent flaws and risks is not victim shaming

The problem with the world becoming politically correct, for the fear of offending any group championing a cause, is that we are either becoming too sensitive (and hence taking an offence to everything) or too desensitized (where nothing has shock value anymore).

Nothing like the Internet where viciousness thrives under the cloak of anonymity. Nothing, also, like the Internet where people willingly sign up for ‘anonymous feedback’ for instant validation, and then cry foul when the feedback is abusive.

Within minutes I’d be hounded and I’ll get ‘called out’ for ‘victim shaming’ because ‘no one asks for abuses’, but they forget when they ‘ask’ people for ‘anonymous feedback’, they are actually ‘asking for it’ (the feedback part, that is).

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Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’d have heard of “Sarahah”. For the uninitiated, Sarahah is an app that “helps you self-develop by receiving constructive anonymous feedback.” Created in Saudi Arabia by one Zain al-Abidin Tawfiq, it has become a nuisance on Twitter and Facebook timelines. The fad 6 months back was another anonymous feedback app called “sayat.me” and before that it was ask.fm.

Except, Sarahah which means “honesty” in Arabic has ironically become the Internet’s newest favourite corner to let your inner cruelty out. Words have power. Hurtful words, even more so. Anonymity fuels hatred. And threats.

But how many of these threats are real or perceived? If someone anonymously tells me he/she will murder me, should I really be worried? Should I panic about the rape threats? Am I in real danger? Should I cry out hoarse how Internet is not a safe space for women?

No one should be receiving threats. But if there is no real threat, or no real danger of that threat becoming a reality (say there is someone obsessed using multiple accounts, or targeting you at multiple platforms), should we just block and move on or worry ourselves silly over a frustrated anonymous person over the Internet?

Also, people assume that such ‘rape threats’ are given by frustrated men, mostly “Sanghis”. And only “Sanghis” are capable of demeaning women. Then such twisted people want the issue of ‘online abuse’ to be debated with all sincerity!

I am a woman myself and I know that such cyber bullying, especially rape threats, can freak one out. I have been at receiving end of threats and bullying. Some so-called ‘journalists’ have encouraged people who wish death upon me. Had the threat (of that loony wishing death on me) were real, I’d have approached the police, but no one takes Aam Aadmi Party supporters seriously:

Also, what if it is actually a woman behind the cloak of anonymity sending such vile messages to other women, just to soak in the panic that ‘feedback’ could create? Why people conveniently forget that most ‘sisterhood’ on Twitter (and in the virtual world) is actually just a sham? So many women, a lot of them who identify themselves as feminists, are also extremely vile to other women just because their political ideology is different. We really underestimate the extent of poison people have in them.

I am not saying ignore all the threats as being fake. But perhaps it is a good idea to get the authorities involved if the threat sounds real, instead of posting it on social media; because being featured in a listicle titled “how the Internet is a hostile place for women” may not really help as much as police could.

Again, no one is saying that we don’t deserve safe spaces and people should be shamed for going to ‘unsafe’ places. But an app or website is not really a public space like a park or a road that ought to be safe for all at all costs. These are private apps, which are open for public. You know, much like a private mall where public can walk in. They too need to be safe, but if I see a mall where there are no security guards and people are moving around wearing masks, I think I won’t walk into it even if there was a sale going on with 100% discount.

Sarahah never claimed it has any security features to tackle cyber-bullying. (Twitter at least has *some* guidelines and tools in place, however ineffective they may be at times.) Hence, it is an irresponsible app to begin with, where you have willingly given away your email id to register. And then people complain about privacy concerns!

How about reaching out to individuals whose opinion you hold high for a feedback directly than asking a bunch of strangers over the Internet for ‘honest feedback’? Anonymous and constructive are as much correlated as wine and safe driving. But somehow if you still believe that anonymous feedback can be constructive, just get something like a Secret Santa (replace the gifts with feedback notes) organised in your workplace or in your friend circle! Secret Santa is safe, Sarahah is not.

And everyone else on the social media, calm down. Delete the shady app from that Saudi guy. Find a new distraction. Go play Ludo. It’s far less annoying.


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