Sarahah Founder Says New Anonymous Messaging App Won’t Devolve Into Toxicity
Sarahah gained a huge following as an anonymous messaging app in 2017 until the inevitable happened — users started to bully and harass others.
Now, Zain-Alabdin Tawfiq, Sarahah’s founder, is hoping to keep the toxicity at bay with a new messaging service under Sarahah’s umbrella. That free app, Enoff, unveiled on Thursday, is intended to combat harassment, among other things, rather than foster it.
Enoff is aimed at employees or members of organizations—a company, club, or school, for example—for lodging complaints or raising concerns. Messages submitted will go to a specific person designated by the organization like someone in human resources or an executive.
The recipient can then chat through the app with whoever submitted the report, without knowing their identity. If someone uses the app improperly, the person fielding the complaint can report it. Who it gets reported to and what happens after is up to the organization.
Tawfiq said that the new app could be used to report serious crimes such as embezzlement and more ordinary concerns and complaints like stolen lunch or overflowing trash cans.
On its face, this new tool seems like a drastic departure from Sarahah, which is based in Saudi Arabia. But Tawfiq says his original app served as inspiration.
“On Sarahah, we saw very diverse users. One interesting use was by NGOs [non-profit organizations independent of the government]. They were using Sarahah to receive reports of sexual assaults,” Tawfiq says. “We thought that this is a great use of the service. And [Enoff] helps to continue the conversation in a private matter, unlike Sarahah, where it’s one-way communication and the recipients cannot reply.”
Those NGOs are now potential customers of Enoff. However, Tawfiq said there are no partnerships to announce yet.
Ultimately, Tawfiq hopes this latest app ends up being more positive than Sarahah.
He also noted that Sarahah is still very much alive despite being banned from Apple’s and Google’s app stores. Currently, many users access Sarahah through web browsers instead of the app and share links to their profiles through other social media sites.
As part of an effort to combat cyberbullying, Sarahah’s site is expected to get a makeover. The service’s team is testing Google’s machine learning tools to better screen negative language. Using earlier technology, it could automatically block racial slurs and expletives but not messages including harassment that used more complex language. Now, with the planned machine learning, the company would also be able to better detect less obvious harassment.
The cyberbullying pitfall that Sarahah fell into is a disappointment for Tawfiq, who says the issue made him “sad” and went against the goal of his platform: self-betterment and helping people.
“I feel that Enoff works more toward that goal than anything else.”
Enoff is available in the Apple App Store now. It is expected to be available for Android in the coming weeks.