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Sydney startup brings anonymity back to social media, without the cyberbullying

Monday, 23 March 2015 | By Broede Carmody

An anonymous social media platform from Australia has seen more than 5000 users jump onboard since launching just a month ago.


A startup based in Sydney, mimChat, allows users to create an anonymous profile and view a feed that collates the most popular anonymous posts into the one stream – as well as posts from nearby.


The startup has released an Android app and a desktop version, with an iOS app to go live in the next few days.


Co-founder Phil Winterton told StartupSmart he wanted to build a platform where people can say what is on their mind without worrying about their public image in the same way as Facebook or Twitter.


“At the end of the day, you can’t stop certain people with negative crazy talk out there,” he says.


“Anonymity and privacy are definitely the essence of this type of app and that’s something we aim to protect. But we do have a team constantly monitoring any sort of posts or comments deemed to not be in the spirit of what the team hopes to bring about … terrorism or complete racism springs to mind.”


That sounds an awful lot like services already offered by large venture-backed American startups Yik Yak, Whisper, and Secret, which, after raising $US35 million in venture capital, was forced to pivot after struggling to maintain growth.


Those apps have all come under fire for being awash with cyberbullying.


Even Reddit has moved to tackle online abuse and revenge porn, banning naked photos that are shared on the site if they were taken or uploaded without the subject’s consent. Last week, Facebook updated its community standards in a bid to “create an environment where people feel motivated and empowered to treat each other with empathy and respect”.


Winterton says cyberbullying is a massive issue for social media startups and, in particular, ones that offer their users anonymity. However, he thinks anonymous platforms still serve a purpose.


“Transparency is key,” he says.


“Unless we get subpoenaed by any regulatory bodies, we’re definitely not going to share or give away any identities at all. If we get subpoenaed we will have to give away someone’s IP address, but unless that happens we’re never going to share any details. That trust is how we’re going to build traction.”


A quick scan of mimChat revealed a plethora of memes and funny pictures, with salacious gossip or online abuse nowhere to be found. However, it could only be a matter of time – the internet can be a scary place.


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