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Frank Warren Forced to Shut Down PostSecret App
Despite overwhelming popularity, the app’s anonymity settings made it an easy target for spammers. By Sophie Gilbert
Comments () | Published January 3, 2012

One of the hundreds of anonymous postcards that appear weekly on the PostSecret blog. Image courtesy of PostSecret.com.

When Germantown resident and PostSecret founder Frank Warren launched the PostSecret app for iPhones in September, hopes were high that the app would usher in a new era of connectivity for PostSecret fans everywhere. The site, which grew from an early art project to a blog receiving millions of hits a week, asks users to anonymously mail in postcards sharing a secret they’ve never previously revealed. “I waste office supplies because I hate my boss,” says one. “He’s been in prison for two years because of what I did,” reads another. “Nine more to go.”

Upon its launch, the PostSecret app quickly attracted a community of fans, which Warren says was his aim. “I wanted people to be able to make and share secrets, to connect through the secrets and reply to what people share,” Warren told The Washingtonian in September. The app, in keeping with Warren’s outreach toward people considering suicide, also included links to a suicide hotline. In four months, more than two million secrets were uploaded and shared, and the app reached number one on the Apple Store’s bestselling list.

Warren announced January 1 in his usual Sunday post that the app had been shut down because of unfavorable content. “Like the PostSecret blog, the app was designed so each secret was absolutely anonymous. Unfortunately, that anonymity made it very challenging to permanently remove determined users with malicious intent,” Warren wrote. Complaints were received at PostSecret HQ after users uploaded content Warren described as “not just pornographic but also gruesome and at times threatening.” Despite attempts to prescreen secrets, the app’s popularity made it ultimately too difficult to monitor.

The PostSecret iPhone App has now been removed from the Apple Store, and a planned Android app has been similarly shuttered. But Warren will continue to upload a selection of the hundreds of postcards he receives each week at PostSecret.com.

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Posted at 03:17 PM/ET, 01/03/2012 RSS | Print | Permalink | Comments () | Washingtonian.com Blogs