“Unseen” will improve app in response to OSU students who were racially targeted
STILLWATER, Okla. – Unseen app creators say they are actively working on improving their app after an incident at OSU sparked racial comments against a historically African American sorority, Delta Sigma Theta Inc.
In late October, NewsChannel 4 looked into the allegations that a picture of the OSU sorority was snapped with the app, Unseen, targeted the female students.
The sorority was hosting an event to raise money for breast cancer awareness.
Racial slurs and comments followed after the picture was taken.
Unseen representatives say they are horrified by the behavior and posted the following open letter on their blog.
“There are moments of clarity in the life of a company that force it to examine its status quo, and choose to either grow beyond it or accept what is as good enough.
Last week, members of Oklahoma State University’s Theta Mu chapter of Delta Sigma Theta sorority were harassed by racist slurs written anonymously on our app. When these painful circumstances came to our company’s attention, we already knew that we had work to do in order to make Unseen a constructive and inclusive platform. But the courage of those young women who spoke out against the bigotry they experienced at the hands of their peers has inspired a renewed sense of purpose around that work.
Our mission as a company is to solve problems by connecting people. This has been at the heart of every product we’ve ever created, and Unseen is no exception.
Those who have come of age in a post-Facebook era have grown acclimated to living in the shadow of their own digital footprint. We developed Unseen out of the conviction that mass communication can never be truly free and open if the public does not have avenues of total privacy. In creating an anonymous space built upon an unwavering commitment to privacy, we hope to provide a platform where users can express themselves and connect with their community in ways they may never be in a position to do otherwise.
But in this pursuit of a more sincere and connected world, our responsibility to our users must extend beyond merely creating an anonymous platform. If Unseen provides the freedom of anonymity, then we must be aware that there are better and worse (or at least less mature) uses of that freedom. While many users have leveraged the platform in rich, creative, and thought-provoking ways, others have opted to use it to reproduce the ubiquitous, “edgy” fluff that is unfortunately common in anonymous, online mediums.
While we have a moderation system in place that puts a floor on content that’s needlessly graphic, explicit, or offensive, the presence of such material points to a larger issue.
Material that is offensive for its own sake ultimately reveals nothing genuine about the person who posted it. The superficiality of this kind of content is surpassed only by its effectiveness in shutting down any possibility of meaningful connection or exchange. It is a tactic of someone who’d rather play up someone else’s insecurities than be real about their own.
Over the coming months, the fundamental question we seek to address is how to create a system that expands our users’ conception of what the freedom of anonymity might mean, and how to use that freedom creatively; how to build a place where it really can be safe to make mistakes, ask questions, and speak candidly; how to foster dialogue that inspires users to consider perspectives that may never have occurred to them otherwise, and to share their own perspectives in turn.
Our company will continue to make improvements to the systems and processes that aim to make Unseen a place where anyone can hang out and be who they are. It’s an exciting challenge, and we’re eager to take it on.
And finally, to the extraordinary young women of Theta Mu, we want to say thank you. We needed the wake up call. We’ll do our best to get it right.”