I’m Paula Santolaya, reporting live from SANTOLIVE in my virtual reality. Have comments, questions, or suggestions? Post them in the comments section or email me at email@example.com.
ThisCrush is one of the most popular websites among young people between sixteen and twenty, above Snapchat or Instagram. It has been dubbed as the Tinder (the most popular app to meet people) for teenagers. For its creators, the objective of this online platform consists on facilitating the declaration of love among users by posting comments and sending messages. Its main attraction: the anonymity. And many will ask: what’s the point of not knowing the identity of your flattering person? Apparently, your unknown platonic love can also insult you. On this webseite, “I like you” becomes “you are very ugly”, “you are fat” or “nobody will ever love you with that face”, among other niceties.
The Spanish Civil Guard has received several complaints of cyberbullying. Specifically, the case of two minors who used this app to insult and threaten a classmate. But, undoubtedly, the most alarming case was that of Hannah Smith: a fourteen-year-old British girl who decided to take her own life due to the severe harassment suffered for months from anonymous users who insulted and encouraged her to commit suicide by having an eczema on her skin. The event had such a media impact that, through a collection of signatures, the site established a system to report offensive comments and block malicious users.
Despite all the complaints received, the website has a legal policy stating that it is not responsible for what its users write. Neither does it have a team of moderators, nor an pre-action protocol to combat cyberbullying. In addition, it is not mandatory to provide an email to access, so the offenders can create multiple accounts and continue with the exchange of insults and threats until they are blue the face.
ThisCrush is already one of the most popular online chat in the world and has thousands of its downloads. What else has to happen to prohibit these practices? While there is impunity for the perpetrators, there will be no security on the Internet for the young ones. And the most terrible thing: families don’t find out what happens.