Burnbook app creator points finger at parents

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LA MESA, Calif. – The creator of the controversial Burnbook app went on the defense Thursday after critics said his social media app is another harmful platform students use to make threats and hurt others.

Students have used the app to bully others. Others have used the app to make threats against schools.

An eighth grade student is facing criminal charges after using the app to make an online threat that caused heightened security at El Cajon Valley High School Wednesday.

“We wish that they didn’t exist. We wish there was a way to control them, but the world has changed,” Grossmont Union High School District Superintendent Ralf Swenson said.

Burnbook hit the app store in September, but after people began using the app to post cruel messages and nude photos, CEO and founder Jonathan Lucas took it down for a few months.

The app rolled out again earlier this year with new features, including pop-up warning messages about posting ethically and responsibly, as well as messages saying the users could be held responsible for criminal actions.

Apps like Burnbook put more pressure on adults, Swenson said.

“The adults in our schools, the adults in our community…making sure that we’re not allowing our kids to roam around unchaperoned, basically, in a world that is full of potential harm and potential danger to them,” he said.

When it comes to chaperoning users, Lucas is in charge.

He said he will remove posts that are inappropriate if they get enough votes to be removed from other users and hand over IP address information to authorities when needed.

But he is pointing the finger at parents instead of accepting blame when people use the app inappropriately.  The app is rated 17+ in the app store. He said parents should be aware of what their children are doing.

“If you set parental restrictions, it won’t let you download any app that’s rated 17 and older,” Lucas said.

“When someone is holding up a vulgar sign, it’s not the pen’s fault -- it’s not the paper’s fault,” Lucas said. “It is the person holding the sign. They’re parents. It sounds harsh, but they need to know what their kids are doing.”

Superintendent Swenson said Lucas should accept some responsibility. He argued that the young adult will continue making money at the expense of others and so-called anonymous apps like his just make an already hard age harder for students.

“It is tough to be a teenager,” Swenson said. “It was tough a long, long time ago when I was a teenager, but I guess what’s tougher now for our young people is that there are so many people who can invade their life, can interrupt their personal lives by accessing them through the Internet, through social media.”

Lucas said when he created the popular app, he didn’t set out to hurt others.

His sister had been bullied in the past and he didn’t want to make others feel the way she did. Instead, he said the app was all about the free flow of information.

“I wanted to create a place where people could feel safe being anonymous, but not having to worry about being harassed by others,” Lucas said.

Believe it or not, he and Lucas agree on one thing that kids don’t seem to understand: anonymous posts are never really anonymous.

“Privacy is an illusion in the modern era,” Swenson said.

Lucas agreed.

“Your digital footprint will last the rest of your life. It doesn’t go away. You can’t burn it, you can’t throw it in the garbage,” Lucas said.


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  • Mikey

    Fox 5, do you hire 5th Graders to proof read these stories. Almost every story is littered with misspelling, grammar mistakes, and typos.

  • Robert Jones

    Jonathan Lucas is scum, plain and simple. On his radio interview, he claims he made the app with no intent for Internet bullying. Really Jonny boy? Look up the word “burnbook” on urbandictionary, and the site will tell you that a burnbook is something that [derogatory term goes here] do. That definition from 2006 speaks the truth, Lucas lies. Hopefully this profit motive scumbag will be sued by the teenage girls who have been desecrated on his site, so his sins will not be rewarded with pecuniary gains.

  • Shiro

    Here’s what confuses me the most: The Burn Book is named after a scrapbook in a movie (Mean Girls) that was specifically used by students to bully classmates and teachers alike. It wasn’t public info at first, sure, but it allowed the students to keep stewing the rumors and hatred. Eventually one girl leaked the book’s contents in an attempt to frame her former friend — promptly leading to a schoolwide riot.

    Heck, one of the major consequences of the rumors was that a teacher had been falsely accused of selling drugs in the Burn Book, resulting in her being interrogated in her own classroom in front of everyone until someone finally claimed credit for the slander and the book. On top of that, a student (admittedly the one who created the book and then leaked its info) fled into the street after hearing a particularly painful revelation and was run over and nearly killed by a passing bus.

    Literally the only good thing the Burn Book in the film did was expose the fact that a teacher was sexually preying on his students, and even then he was able to escape in the chaos of the riot, with no mention of him being found and arrested later. And unless the book was remade in the sequel film (which I’ve never seen), at no point was the Burn Book ever reclaimed to write down kindness instead of slander.

    So surely if the app is supposed to be a positive experience, a better namesake could have been found than a fictional scrapbook that dragged a fictional high school down to its knees. I still agree that most of the fault lies on those who fail to take responsibility for their children/students and intervene when they abuse others, but I can’t get over the namesake being a tool that was used for nothing BUT bullying.

    • Robert Jones

      There will always be irresponsible kids and parents who are poor at parenting. It would be nice to think that there won’t always be a world where it’s so easy for scumbag Jonathan Lucas to profit off other’s misery. The kids victimized on this thing don’t deserve to be shamed. Jonathan Lucas, the scumbag, does.

      • jordan meeks

        He didn’t say “Parents are responsible.” He said that people are responsible for what they post, but that parents should know what apps their children have on their phone…

        • Robert Jones

          He’s assigning responsibility to parents, while refusing to acknowledge that he’s capitalizing on society’s evils. Again, Jonathan Licas is scum.

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