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Teenage 'Gossip' app sparks alarm in France

Oliver Gee · 4 Jun 2015, 12:09

Published: 04 Jun 2015 12:09 GMT+02:00

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Gossip, an app that was launched two weeks ago, has taken France by storm and authorities by surprise.
It gained 60,000 users in the fortnight that it was available. But its creator Cindy Mauly removed the app earlier this week citing that she needed to take a closer look at the user terms and conditions. 
So why is it so controversial?
The app is loosely based on Gossip Girl, a hit teen drama TV series from the US that sees an anonymous blogger sharing information about other teens in New York. Similarly, users of the app share rumours and gossip about their peers - information that disappears in just ten seconds from the receiver's phone. 
The app has been likened to Twitter for its short messages and SnapChat for the short time they're available. 
However, despite the app's popularity, it has more than it's share of opponents, many of whom claim it promotes bullying. 
Education Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem chimed in on the matter, saying that France already has 700,000 people who are regularly subjected to bullying, calling on teachers and school staff to show "extreme vigilance" around any pupils using the app. 
Gossip creator Cindy Mauly, 25, has laid extremely low throughout the fiasco, but granted one interview to the Europe 1 channel, where she said she hadn't expected such controversy.
She added that she intended to up the age restriction on the app from 16 to 18, adding that she was well aware that it would not be difficult for a minor to open an account. 
"But if a minor wanted to get their hands on alcohol or cigarettes they could do that, too," she said.
One parent told the channel that she had heard stories of girls who refused to leave their home after messages on the app had left them in tears. 
Story continues below…
Student unions in France have also called for a complete ban of the app on the grounds that it encourages bullying. 
Europe 1 spoke to a lawyer, who said that while the app was definitely in a grey area legally, he could see people falling foul of the law if they were caught bullying others - even if they did it anonymously. 
"Online, there are always traces," he concluded.
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