Celebrity backed anonymous messaging app alarms parents, politicians

Wed Jan 27, 2016 11:44am EST
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By Dan Williams

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - A new app that allows users to send anonymous text messages is causing alarm among parents, politicians and some teenagers, who say it is being used as a weapon for cyber-bullying.

Blindspot, launched by Israeli company Shellanoo, has attracted 700,000 users since it was launched a month ago, mostly in Israel where it is being heavily marketed but also in the United States and Britain.

"What would you say to people you know if you were anonymous?" its advertisement says.

Shellanoo, backed by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich and popstars will.i.am and Nicki Minaj, among others, is being targeted by campaigners but says criticism of its app is undeserved. It believes it is being singled out because of its famous backers and celebrity links.

Dor Refaeli, a high-profile employee of Herzliya-based Shellanoo and brother of Israel's Instagram-savvy top model, Bar Refaeli, has spoken out against the backlash, complaining of being hit with hundreds of abusive messages after someone published his phone number online.

"It's a little ironic that I am being accused of bullying and shaming and the only one who's under attack is me," he said, adding that Blindspot was conceived to give shy people a voice.

"There are 353 apps that offer anonymous chats (but) Dor Refaeli has a famous last name," said the firm's spokesman, David Strauss.

Blindspot requires users to register with their phone number, which is withheld from texts they send. Recipients, prompted by SMS, must themselves download the free app to see any messages, photos or videos sent.   Continued...

A billboard advertisement for Israeli app Blindspot, which allows people to send text messages anonymously, is seen in Tel Aviv January 25, 2016.  REUTERS/Baz Ratner