New Social App Triggers 12 Police Investigations
Burnbook members post threats anonymously, police say
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 28, 2015 5:30 PM CDT

(Newser) – Think Facebook gets nasty? Then check out Burnbook, a popular app where users are anonymously posting gossip about colleges and high schools—and creating serious trouble, Vocativ reports. Just this month, Burnbook posts have triggered at least 12 police investigations involving high school students, including alleged gun threats, bomb threats, posted nude photos, and bullying that led to a suicide attempt. "I didn't even know about Burnbook until this came around," an Oregon police sergeant told the Oregonian after a teenager was arrested. The "burnbook" concept dates back to the film Mean Girls, which featured a pink gossip book by that name, and "digital burnbooks" like Facebook pages and apps including Yik Yak, Whisper, and Secret, Mashable reports.

Burnbook founder and CEO Jonathan Lucas says the app was conceived as "a bastion of free speech," but tells KUSI that "we've changed out objectionable content" and even contacted police: "Anonymity is a privilege, not a right," he says. "If that privilege is abused, there are consequences." He also set the app's age requirement at 18, or 17 with permission of a guardian or parent, even though elementary schools are listed as Burnbook "communities." Meanwhile, parents and students are fighting back by posting positive Burnbook messages, and a "family safety evangelist" is advising parents to talk to their kids about it. And some people are just plain upset: "What kind of person creates an app like burnbook?" reads one tweet. "If you feel the need to be anonymous, you probably shouldn't be saying anything at all." (See how a woman called "the world's ugliest" online is showing her true beauty.)