After a slow build-up this week, the Talking Angela hoax exploded online tonight, with more accusations and rumors heaped upon the interactive app for children.
In February 2013, rumors swirled that an app called Talking Angela was spying on children, snapping pictures, and asking inappropriate questions. We debunked that rumor at the time, but in recent weeks the same accusations have surfaced once again. This time we are seeing more narratives and implications, with no facts or evidence whatsoever. In the wake of the rumor, a fake news report also circulated that a boy disappeared after installing the app.
It was established last year that the rumors regarding Talking Angela were unfounded. Consider:
- Had the app been “dangerous” the first time this rumor circulated, it would have certainly been pulled by Apple and Google due to complaints at the time.
- With its vast numbers of downloads, it does not stand to reason that there would be a person on the other end of each play session as some have suggested.
- Aside from anonymous narratives such as those below, there have been no police reports of such criminal activity taking place with this app.
Below are some examples of graphics heavily shared on Twitter overnight, each of them warning of the dangers of downloading the Talking Angela app.
The following example tells the tale of a child who was frightened by the game because it was asking personal questions. It erroneously claims that the Talking Angela site was taken down because it was a “creep behind the computer trying to get people’s personal info.” The developer’s website was never shut down, and there is no evidence this story is true.
This example claims that the app is “actually a hacker sitting behind that webcam, able to see you but you can’t see him.” The writer of this warning, however, fails to point out that this could only be achieved if hundreds of thousands of hackers were all working together at once to fulfill the vast number of users of the app.
This graphic lists several reasons why you should avoid the Talking Angela app, including the claim that the reason the app “takes a second for her to say something” is because there “is a guy behidn all of this that is a hacker.”
Again, the logistics are unaccounted for when hundreds of thousands of people are using the app at the same time.
A longer narrative below has also been circulating heavily this week. This story tells of the Talking Angela app asking inappropriate questions to the writer’s child.
The writer stated that the app was under “serious investigation” – which is wasn’t.
Some Twitter users even circulated an image allegedly of the creator of Talking Angela. The man in that photo, however, is completely unrelated to the app, and is currently serving a 100-to-life sentence in a California prison, and was incarcerated long before the Talking Angela app was released. It appears as though someone simply lifted the man’s photo and claimed he was the creator of Talking Angela.
Developer: Hoax is “Ridiculous”
The Guardian interviewed two executives with Outfit7, the developer of Talking Angela. CEO Samo Login stated:
“Obviously, it’s a hoax. I don’t know how it got started or how it got traction. These things just happen. We have millions of users every day using this app. Can you imagine, we’d need an army of paedophiles. It’s ridiculous. Even though it could be easily believed that you are talking to a person, if you pay some attention, everybody can easily find out that it’s not a person on the other side: it’s only a semi-intelligent conversation that you’re having.”
Regarding questions about content, Outfit7 posted a FAQ about the game in hopes of quelling rumors about the app.
Upon initial download, users are given the option to play the Talking Angela app in child mode, a function specifically designed to safeguard the privacy of young players. Within child mode, the chat bot feature is disabled so Talking Angela can respond only to touch and repeat what she hears over the microphone, similar to other apps within the Talking Tom and Friends series. Child mode can be selected at any point within the app’s settings.
If child mode is not selected, chat bot will be enabled and Talking Angela will engage in two-way communication with the user.
#3 on App Store
On February 21, Mashable reported that Talking Angela had reached #3 on the app store on the heels of the latest controversy.
The Talking Angela app is not dangerous and does not spy on those who use it.
Updated February 23, 2014