UPDATE: This is a good news update! As of 12:50PM on March 31st, when you search for Burnbook on the iTunes store, it appears to have been removed. However it does remain available at this time on Google Play.
An app which lets users post gossip and bully and abuse anonymously, has become incredibly popular in high schools. It is amazingly sad that someone has created this and all the suffering that will result.
In just four months, the free social app Burnbook (named after the pink book in the movie Mean Girls that was filled with rumors, stories, and gossip) has become a fixture at hundreds of high schools, primarily on the West Coast. The app’s founder, 23-year-old Jonathan Lucas, says there are more than 100,000 posts on the site every day. Like similar apps, it allows nameless users to post completely anonymously on chat rooms centered around individual schools.
A recent top review on iTunes for Burnbook – “This app was created to increase cyberbullying. There’s no other reason.”
And someone tweeted, “What kind of person creates an app like burnbook? If you feel the need to be anonymous, you probably shouldn’t be saying anything at all.”
A growing number of students claim that Burnbook’s secrecy fosters endless crude, derogatory and menacing posts among their peers. The app has triggered chaos within high schools, rattling parents, educators and local law enforcement. In March alone, teens using Burnbook generated bomb threats and suicide attempts, campus lockdowns and multiple arrests across the country. It was similar controversy — and dozens of articles on web sites creating negative publicity — that led Yik Yak to bump up its age requirements to 18 last year, effectively abandoning the high-school market.
The same reviewer goes on to say, “The app has become popular at my school and is specifically targeting a small group of people. 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.”
Here’s what parents need to know about the burn book culture, and this new app that perpetuates it.
Today’s concept of a “burn book” was popularized by the movie Mean Girls, in which a small group of high school students wrote terrible comments about others, and reported rumors and gossip in a physical book.
But digital burn books are nothing new. Students have set up Facebook pages and blogs to create their own versions of burn books in the past, but it could be argued that nothing has reached the same scale of the Burnbook app before.
Other popular anonymous apps exist, such as Whisper and Secret and even similarly location-based Yik Yak, but they do not specifically target school communities the way Burnbook does. Yik Yak is mostly used on college campuses.
You search for “communities” — schools — near your location, and once you join a community you’re free to post anything on any topic.
The following is the app’s description on Google Play:
Burn Book™ is the world’s first SOCIAL ACCOUNTABILITY NETWORK (SAN). It allows you to 100% ANONYMOUSLY review someone without having to worry about retaliation. No fees, no registration, nothing you need to sign up for. It’s a fun way to review your friends and hold them socially accountable for their actions. Don’t get left in the dust, get onto the fastest growing social network in the country!
How it works:
– Create a profile about the person you want to review by using Burn Book’s Facebook integration to pull their info, profile picture, etc from your friend list. Or, if they don’t have a profile on Facebook, you can enter their profile info yourself.
– Select one of the 10 categories you are going to review the person for.
– Add PHOTO EVIDENCE of the event: If this person took pennies from the tray at the corner store, snap a photo and upload it to the review!
– Write a few lines about what happened: “This guy takes money from the tray! Take a look!”
– Publish the review and let the whole world know what this person did!
-After you publish the review you can ANONYMOUSLY email the person to let them know that they are now in Burn Book. Or, you can send a text message to a friend, letting them know to check out a review you posted about someone.
The Burnbook blurb suggests “Jokes, fails, wins, sightings, shout outs, revelations, proclamations and confessions — they all happen on Burnbook. Together, we can keep a secret.”
That blurb is completely ridiculous when you see how the app is ACTUALLY being used…to single out and relentlessly bully high school-aged children. A screenshot from the app caught a girl’s name being posted and then peers “commenting” on this poor girl. Among the comments were “looks like a man sorry” and “her voice is totally gross.” In another screenshot from the app, the words “Danielle’s ass” were posted and among the comments were “Danielle who?” and “The one with the FAT ASS.”
It is completely anonymous. You don’t need to sign in, and you don’t create a username. As a result, Burnbook gives kids the ability to pick a name, and engage others in cruel bullying.