Christina Wolfgram
April 30, 2015 1:33 pm

Secret, the predecessor of other anonymous messaging systems, like Yik Yak, After School, and Whisper, is closing down. The app allowed users to be connected with friends based on social media platforms, but to post under a secret identity.

David Byttow, co-found of the Secret app, explained his decision in a blog post on Medium yesterday, and his reasons are actually pretty respectable. “Secret does not represent the vision I had when starting the company,” he writes. He continues to explain that the app was meant to give users a safe platform to express themselves.

While sharing secrets anonymously can be a great source of relief (as is reading other people’s relatable secrets), Byttow is right in saying that apps like Secret are a double-edged sword because they provide an environment where anyone can say anything. Unfortunately, not everyone uses that power for good. For instance, in one high-profile case last year, a female programmer was bullied on Secret for leaving a company after experiencing sexism in the workplace. And that’s just one example. Not okay!

On Secret’s website, their FAQ says that though the app keeps, “a link between secrets and your user information … even the Secret team here can’t really access that link.” So, in an effort to create the ultimate safe space for confessions, Secret actually created protection for bullies who take advantage of the app’s anonymity. It seems that Byttow recognizes Secret’s potential for harm and does not have a solution other than shutting down the program.

Other secret-sharing apps are not immune to bullying and hurtful gossiping. In fact, last year a seventeen-year-old student in Michigan was sentenced to 40 years in prison for posting that he was going to “kill all teachers” on the After School app.

Maybe Secret shutting down is for the best. Hopefully, this turn of events will bring more awareness to cyber-bullying and encourage other app companies to rethink their design.

(Images via and here.)

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