PostSecret iPhone app closed due to 'threatening' and 'pornographic' content

Jan. 2, 2012 at 12:21 PM ET

PostSecret /
Screenshot from cached Apple App Store site

Citing "content that was not just pornographic but also gruesome and at times threatening," PostSecret founder Frank Warren made a new year's decision to close the popular iPhone app, which allowed users to anonymously post and peruse secrets of every variety.

In his blog post, Warren explains:

It pains me to announce that the PostSecret App is now closed. In some ways, this is because of its success. It reached the top-selling spot in the App Store and users shared over 2 million creative secrets.

Like the PostSecret Blog, the App was designed so each secret was absolutely anonymous. Unfortunately, that absolute anonymity made it very challenging to permanently remove determined users with malicious intent.

He goes on to say that even though the problem content accounted for only one percent of the submissions streaming into the app, that was too overwhelming for the volunteer moderators who tried valiantly to pre-screen the 30,000 secrets a day that came their way. 

While he wouldn't go into detail about the content that caused all the trouble, he did say:

Bad content caused users to complain to me, Apple and the FBI. I was contacted by law enforcement about bad content on the App. Threats were made against users, moderators and my family. (Two specific threats were made that I am unable to talk about). As much as we tried, we were unable to maintain a bully-free environment.

The $2 app was first made available in the Apple App store in October, and had a recommendation for only those 17 and older, for:

  • Frequent/Intense Horror/Fear Themes
  • Frequent/Intense Alcohol, Tobacco, Drug Use or References to these
  • Frequent/Intense Mature/Suggestive Themes
  • Frequent/Intense Profanity or Crude Humour
  • Frequent/Intense Sexual Content or Nudity
  • Frequent/Intense Cartoon or Fantasy Violence
  • Frequent/Intense Realistic Violence

(Now, you've been duly warned, too. A lot of what you'd see on the app, or on the blog, is of the NSFW ilk.)

Warren came up with the idea as an art project, handing out postcards to strangers and leaving them in public places in Nov. 2004 for them to mail to him, anonymously. In an explanation of how PostSecret began, the instructions were simple enough:

"You are invited to anonymously contribute a secret to a group art project. Your secret can be a regret, fear, betrayal, desire, confession, or childhood humiliation. Reveal anything — as long as it is true and you have never shared it with anyone before. Be brief. Be legible. Be creative." 

Since then, PostSecret has evolved into books by Warren, live events, exhibitions and a blog visited by one million weekly. 

Warren has received more than 300,000 secrets and continues to receive about 1,000 handmade 4x6 postcards every week.

— via Cult of Mac

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