Gossip: Teenage mobile app encouraging anonymous rumour-spreading causes angst in France

The app has been temporarily withdrawn after complaints by teachers, parents, pupils’ unions and even the education minister

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The Independent Online

A mobile phone application which encourages anonymous gossip by – and about – teenagers is causing consternation in France.

The app called “Gossip” (using the English word) has been temporarily withdrawn after complaints by teachers, parents, pupils’ unions and even the education minister.

After only a few weeks of existence, Gossip has become the 7th most downloaded social media app in France. It allows  users to send anonymous messages to their friends which appear on phone screens for ten seconds, classified as either “rumour” or “proof”.

Although supposedly destined for “young adults”, the app has spread like wildfire amongst youngsters aged 14 to 18. Typical messages have included: “Camille is the ugliest girl in the class” or “Sophie sleeps  around” or “Philippe is secretly gay”.

 

The main union for lycée (sixth form) pupils in France, the Fédération Indépendante et Démocratique Lycéenne (FIDL) said the app "encouraged bullying", which was already "a serious and widespread" problem in schools. The education minister, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, said the app could "cause disturbances" in otherwise "serene" school environments.

Similar apps in the United States have been accused of provoking suicides.

The creator of Gossip, Cindy Mouly, 25, announced that she had withdrawn the services “for a few days” to introduce safeguards. When “Gossip” returns, she said, under-18’s will be banned from using it. Messages will be monitored to prevent malicious bullying.

Critics complain that the app was originally advertised for download for the “over 12’s” on the “iTunes” website. Ms Mouly says that this was a “mistake”.

They also point out that the choice of the title “Gossip” was almost certainly a reference to the US TV series “Gossip Girl”, which is popular with French teenagers.

This series follows the lives of pupils in an American high school who are victims of gossip spread by an anonymous informant.

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