Website Warning – Qooh.me
Anonymous messaging apps can be toxic and dangerous.
Imagine your workplace allowed colleagues to give anonymous feedback to each other and let’s say you received largely positive feedback on your work, except for one message that contained a personal criticism which hurt your feelings. How would you feel coming in to work the next day? You wouldn’t know who said that hurtful comment. You might feel suspicious, upset and even embarrassed if the question was publicly visible. What if that person sent a similar message the next night, and the next? How would you feel if more colleagues laughed at it, or worse: joined in.
In 18 months over 2012/13, 9 child suicides could be linked to young people using the anonymous messaging platform Ask Fm, whilst under new ownership and with improved safety settings the platform remains active and when users turn on one another it still represents a risk.
These apps come and go but the threats and risks posed by anonymous messaging can have devastating consequences. Recently, our team identified Qooh.me as yet another anonymous messaging platform gaining popularity.
How does it work?
Qooh.me is a platform that allows children to discover other users from around the world, ask them & answer anonymous questions. It is available on internet browsers and the Google Play store but not on the Apple store.
Followers ask users questions anonymously, then the users can reply to these questions publicly. Users have control over the questions that appear on their profile as they only appear after they have been answered. Qooh.me lets anyone ask you anonymous questions with a character limit of 260 to then answer them.
In line with many popular platforms, the terms of service state that you need to be at least 13 years or older to use the app. It is unlikely that this age restriction is based on the behaviour exhibited in the app and more likely that this is in place to stay in line with COPPA. The recommended age rating on Common Sense Media is 17+ however the parental reviews on the site state they recommend it as 18+.
What content is seen on Qooh.me?
Like any other anonymous messaging sites, you can stumble across innocent content such as “What is your favourite animal?” or “What is your favourite food?”. However, followers can send users inappropriate messages directly such as “Who wants to see my nudes?”. Quite frequently you will find explicit language in the public questions and answers.
Qooh.me state on their website “Have fun and keep it clean!!!! The aim is NOT to spread gossip or bully and harass people.”.
Through our research, we found some worrying examples of questions and answers:
A user publicly gives away their age and location
We are not friends with this user and through the information she has shared from one post, we were able to find her Facebook and Instagram profiles.
A user publicly signposts their other platforms
Again, we are not friends with this user and through the information shared we can find more information about her from her wider digital footprint.
Advice for Qooh.me:
❇️ Different apps can be popular in different regions. Visit the Social Media section of your app to learn more about the other anonymous messaging apps you need to watch out for.
❇️ Take a digital footprint survey to discover the different apps being used by children and young people in your community.
❇️ Talk to children and young people about the dangers of sharing personal information online. Help them understand the risks this poses to them.
❇️ Make sure they understand that the real world and the digital world have the same consequences. Encourage them to share positivity online rather than negativity and to think compassionately about the effect their words can have on someone.
❇️ We highly recommended that any children you have in your care do not use or have anonymous messaging apps on their devices.
Be aware of:
⚠️ Persistent repetitive bullying on these platforms. Particularly the acronym ‘kys’ meaning ‘kill yourself’.
⚠️ Whilst the platform filters out bad language, users get around this by using letters with accents, putting extra spaces between letters, or removing some letters from words.
⚠️ There are NO age restrictions on sign up, and no e-mail verification.
⚠️ Qooh.me lets anyone ask you questions anonymously by default until you change this in your settings.
⚠️ It has very poor privacy controls and there is no guarantee the content & questions you will stumble across will be appropriate.