Dusk’s new app lets you live stream anonymously

Online anonymity can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it can give people a voice when theyd otherwise be afraid to speak up whether thats because of fear of government surveillance, discussing a topic thats known to provokecyberbullying or because the topic itself is sensitive like a personal confession or health issue. But anonymity also permits people to be their baser selves, with no fear of repercussions. See, for example, the anonymous trolls on Twitter.

Stepping into this controversial space is a new app called Dusk, which lets you live stream anonymously to its online community, while protecting your identity through pixelated video and voice changed audio.

The end result is something like an anonymous version of Periscope video, or a live video version of the secret-sharing app Whisper.

To use Dusk, you dont need to provide your email or phone number or any other personal information. Instead, you just assign yourself a username and create a PIN code, both of which you can change at any time. Even though theres no personal data for hackers to steal, Dusk uses end-to-end encryption.

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When you go live in Dusk, the apppixelatesthe video in real time, and it masks your voice so you cant be identified by your speech.

Of course, thechallenge with any social appthat permits anonymity is how to deal with abuse. (To be fair, thats a problem these days on social networks where people use their real names just read the comments on any political post on Facebook, for example.)

Dusk approaches the problem of trolling in a variety of ways. It utilizes community moderators as well as user-facing reporting tools that allow you to report spammers or those being abusive. Keyword blocking keeps offensive comments from video titles, and any videos that cross the line in terms of content will bemanually removed.

You can also mute the trolls, andtheyll never be alerted to the fact that theyve been muted. And, of course, you can block users, too.

Launching with anti-abuse toolsbuilt into the platform can help set the communitys tone, though.

Thats something Twitter learned the hard way. While Twitter may have given political dissidents under authoritarian regimes a voice at times, just asoften, Twittersanonymous users abuse and threaten others. Another high-profile anonymous app, Secret, also shut down after failing to deal with the cyberbullying problem.

How well Dusk will actually be able to clamp down on trolling wont be known until the apps audience reaches a certain size. For now, only a handful of early adopters are on board, sharing videos where they discuss things like addiction, depression, relationships, politics and more. So far, most of the commentary Ive come across has been benign.

In addition to its live capabilities, you can also follow other users and watch videos that have been pre-recorded.

Viewing these videos is an interesting experience. Theres really nothing to see except for multi-colored boxes moving around across the screen. But combined with the voice-changed audio, it gives the content anair of secrecy that makes listening to the confessions more compelling.

Interacting with the content feelsa lot like Periscope or Facebook Live you can comment while the video is live, or press to send hearts or sad faces. Users can continue to comment after the video is no longer live, and plans to implement @ mentions are in the works, too.

There are things Dusk could do better, like offering player controls to scroll backwards and forwards, or helpingyou find and follow users or topics you care about. It could offer the ability to search and filter its database of videos for those focused on specific issues, andit could highlight the most popular videos or those that are trending.

Dusk was built byKori Handy and Mitchell Porter of Design First Apps, who previously built an app for startup pitches, Founderfox and video-filtering app Banana.

As Handy explains, he had the idea for Dusk around nine months ago, after watching how people got into trouble for speaking their mind on social media. But Dusk is not meant to give trolls a platform, he says.

The point of protecting your identity is not to say mean things and hide; its designed to give you the strength to speak up, and express your honest self, Handy says. The goal, he adds, is to create real, open dialogs where people can talk aboutthings without those comments being aligned with larger agendas.

The startup is backed by $400,000 in angel funding, but the team hasnt planned how it will generate revenue.

We didnt really build this app thinking about monetizing, it was more of a social change experiment, Handy notes.

Dusk is a free download on the iTunes App Store.


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