Walking tall – the app saving women’s lives that was nearly toppled by fake news
VIVA Team | 25th March 2021
The death of Sarah Everard sparked a warranted wave of anger and hit home the everyday danger that women face just living the lives they have the right to.
One woman, touched and moved to action was Emma Kay, co-founder of WalkSafe, which helps women (and men) to be aware of where recent violence, gender-based attacks and harassment, have taken place with live updates on the latest crime stats in England and Wales.
So much so the app, that as Emma says ‘should not have to exist’ was downloaded by half a million of us in the weeks after Sarah’s tragic death.
With plans to develop the free app and add more features to help women stay safe in the pipeline, what happened next, is like something out of a horror story and nearly scuppered what women have found to be a much needed ally in keeping out of harm.
Emma Kay, Co-founder of Walksafe
“The feedback we got was that women had no idea the amount of gender violence in their area and it was a necessary, but horrible eye-opener, how common it is,” Emma told VIVA.
WalkSafe.io displays crime locations and gives safety alerts when walking or exercising, it is updated weekly and has a ‘HomeSafe’ feature which alerts the user’s emergency contacts if they fail to make it home within allocated time. A ‘TapSafe’ feature notifies contacts when users stop tapping their screen in nervous situations.
“This app should not have to exist, but if creating it helps just one person avoid a bad situation, it’s worth it,” adds Emma.
The WalkSafe map pins locations of crime, such as sexual assault, mugging and knife crime, by using monthly police data. Used regularly the map allows users to see crime patterns and trouble hotpots in local areas. The knowledge helps people plan safer routes.
“We have taken great care to develop features within the app that put knowledge and data in the hands of the user. For example, the HomeSafe feature automatically alerts friends or family if loved ones fail to get home on time. It then shows the location of the person so you can check if they are ok.”
But last week, a fake story began to circulate on social media. It originated as a TikTok by @ryuzakaii who confused the app with a similarly named app in America.
Despite both WalkSafe and @ryuzakaii clarifying this and the story being exposed as fake and a hoax by multiple journalists and fact checkers, it gained traction.
“It is an obscene allegation given the purpose of the app as the fake story circulating, mostly in America, where our app is not even available, is that a similarly named app it is being used to traffic women. As a woman and as someone who is actively helping to keep women safe, this is not just abhorrent, more importantly, spreading these false claims discourages women from downloading an app that helps them stay safe and live the life they have the right to live, which is the very reason WalkSafe was developed,” said Emma.
Now the app is taking on the enormous job of exposing the fake news and is starting to succeed in setting the record straight.
But after a week of death threats, accusations and trying to get the Social Media giants to help, it is a task that needs everyone’s help.
“We desperately need people to know the truth. If you hear or see this fake news on social media then please report it and tell your friends the truth. There’s a real danger that this app, that women need more than ever, will not be used by those who need it most,” added Emma.
WalkSafe.io is completely free to use, free to download, and has no in-app purchases.