Threatening, abusive posts force shutdown of PostSecret app

Jan 2, 2012
Tech

It’s a sad way to start 2012 for many iTunes App Store fans, but the PostSecret app has been removed from Apple’s marketplace and the app has been shut down. PostSecret is an ongoing community art project first started in 2004 by Frank Warren, in which people anonymously send postcards to Warren briefly describing a […]

It’s a sad way to start 2012 for many iTunes App Store fans, but the PostSecret app has been removed from Apple’s marketplace and the app has been shut down.

PostSecret is an ongoing community art project first started in 2004 by Frank Warren, in which people anonymously send postcards to Warren briefly describing a single secret the person holds. Warren curates a batch of around 20 postcards for a weekly blog at postsecret.com, and the project has also produced books and a speaking tour for its creator. Most or all of the proceeds of the project go to suicide prevention services.

The app Warren created for Apple’s iOS mobile platform is the latest extension of the project, and seems to have been a victim of its own success. The app allowed users to create secrets and share them within the app community, adding 140 characters of text to a photo and sharing it with others anonymously. Other users could then comment on secrets.

As CNET reports, most of the interaction between PostSecret community members within the app was fine, but the app also was a victim of many threatening, malicious and pornographic posts. In his blog post, Warren said trying to police the worst of the responses became overwhelming.

“Ninety-nine percent of the secrets created were in the spirit of PostSecret,” Warren wrote. “Unfortunately, the scale of secrets was so large that even 1 percent of bad content was overwhelming for our dedicated team of volunteer moderators who worked 24 hours a day 7 days a week removing content that was not just pornographic but also gruesome and at times threatening.”

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Warren said he and his family received threats through the app, and that users had contacted him, Apple and the FBI about some of the posts within it. But the PostSecret app also was responsible for a huge community of people who shared in random acts of kindess, Warren noted. One secret posted on the blog today, formerly in the app, pointed out a trend taking place during this holiday season in which people were anonymously paying for others’ Christmas gifts on layaway, a movement started, it seems, within the PostSecret app among its users.

An Android version of the app was in the works, Warren said, but the project has been suspended at the moment. It’s also not clear if PostSecret will make another attempt at bringing the project to the App Store. At the moment, it seems the app is dead and there are no plans to attempt to bring it forward. More than likely, keeping the app well-moderated would be too expensive going forward, but Warren said he’s dedicated to exploring ways of bringing the project to new platforms.

In the meantime, the PostSecret blog is still up at postsecret.com, and secrets can still be shared the old fashioned way: on a postcard.

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Phil Hornshaw

Phil Hornshaw is a freelance writer, editor and author living in Los Angeles, dividing his time between playing video games, playing video games on his cell phone, and writing about playing video games. He’s also the co-author of So You Created a Wormhole: The Time Traveler’s Guide to Time Travel, which attempts to mix time travel pop culture with some semblance of science, as well as tips on the appropriate means of riding dinosaurs. Check out his profile.

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