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Rumors Compromise App for Sharing Compliments

In Fall 2022, the Gas app exploded in popularity among high schoolers, but a vicious, unfounded rumor caused its popularity to nosedive, confounding its founders in the process.

Titled after the internet slang “gas up” which means to flatter someone or give them good feelings, the app allows students to share anonymous compliments with their peers. But mere weeks after it reached No. 1 on the Apple store, rumors began circulating that Gas was being used for sex trafficking.

One user said, “I have a Glock and I’ll come into your house and kill all of you,” said Nikita Bier, the startup entrepreneur who founded Gas. “The messages are very detailed, and they’ll send like 150 of these messages because they’re so angry. We have had emails saying, ‘what you’re doing is disgusting and I’ve reported you to the FBI.’ We get countless messages every day from users about it.”

According to Bier, the rumors intensified after parents, teachers, news reporters, and public safety organizations amplified them without knowing if they were true or not.

One such agency was the police department in Piedmont, Oklahoma, which later had to post a retraction. Piedmont Police Chief Scott Singer later said, “That posting was the result of a post that was forwarded to us, which we later learned to be a bogus posting. As a result, we talked with the CEO of Gas, and we have determined it was a bogus posting. We have removed that from our Facebook page and informed the schools that any postings about that were discovered to be false.”

Bier says, “The app grows on its own, but dealing with the hoax requires a lot of labor.” He’s tried a variety of strategies to counter the misinformation, but it seems none of them are very effective. “The challenge is that you can only fight memes with memes. If it’s not easily screenshotable and exciting it’s not going to get more visibility than the original message.”

Possible Preaching Angle:

Nothing can ruin a good situation like poor judgment and unbridled gossiping. As Christians we ought to set an example both by what we say and what we choose NOT to say.

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