PostSecret Pulls iOS App Over Abusive Submissions

Monday January 2, 2012 9:00 AM PST by Jordan Golson
The iOS app for the popular PostSecret blog has been removed by creator Frank Warren. In a blog post on Sunday, Warren laid out the unsurmountable problems with the app, as opposed to the standard PostSecret website.

On the website, anonymous users share their deepest secrets with the world by physically mailing a postcard to a Maryland address. In the app, however, users simply post anonymous messages via their iPhone. As with any anonymous forum on the Internet, malicious users come out of the woodwork to abuse the system, as Warren explained:
99% of the secrets created were in the spirit of PostSecret. Unfortunately, the scale of secrets was so large that even 1% 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.

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. Weeks ago I had to remove the App from my daughter's phone.

Like many of you, I feel a great sense of loss from this decision but please know that we fought hard behind the scenes to find a permanent solution. We even tried prescreening 30,000 secrets a day. Deciding to remove the App from the App Store last week and holding back the release of the Android version cost us money but we feel it was the right thing to do.
Warren notes that while the app is closed, the PostSecret blog and the traditional post card-based submissions are still being accepted via snail mail.

Top Rated Comments

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Posted: 37 months ago
Wow. That's despicable how people abuse things like that to post inappropriate and threatening things, which obviously, ruined it for the majority of people. :mad:
Rating: 12 Votes
Posted: 37 months ago
The idea of a 'managed' yet 'anonymous' forum on iOS is an expired pipe dream. Just look at the App Store Review system with it's nicknames rather than true Usernames or genuine emails, it's chock full of BS from all sides to the point of being a total joke.

Really hate to say this, but FaceBook has it right, be who you are. Say what you want and stand behind it.

If you don't want anyone to know what you're saying, or if what you're saying if a lie, violent, or breaking the law, perhaps you should shut up.
Rating: 7 Votes
Posted: 37 months ago

The idea of a 'managed' yet 'anonymous' forum on iOS is an expired pipe dream. Just look at the App Store Review system with it's nicknames rather than true Usernames or genuine emails, it's chock full of BS from all sides to the point of being a total joke.

Really hate to say this, but FaceBook has it right, be who you are. Say what you want and stand behind it.

If you don't want anyone to know what you're saying, or if what you're saying if a lie, violent, or breaking the law, perhaps you should shut up.


Agreed, up to a point; anonymity puts people on their worst behavior. Just look at online dating and drivers on the road! But Facebook’s (and Google’s (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eric_Schmidt#Views)) path is equally a pipe dream: you need anonymity if you’re speaking about those with power over you. Your boss, your government when corrupt (and there will always be instances where it is), anyone with enough money to make you suffer, anyone who wants to cover something up enough to make you suffer, etc.

Plus, Facebook goes one step further than just “be who you are”: they also gather and use info on who you are for profit. (As does Google, and nearly any free service including TV. And I think free services like that are a great option sometimes, but they have a downside.) Any time you put real info out there, you are offering value to companies to make use of it. Maybe not in ways you’d choose if you knew the details (and you probably never will). Is your private info usually abused? No, usually not... I would guess. But that’s not good enough.
Rating: 7 Votes
Posted: 37 months ago

Really hate to say this, but FaceBook has it right, be who you are. Say what you want and stand behind it.


You can have multiple profiles on Facebook all with some bogus background and photos. Just don't call them Mark Zuckerberg and you're good to go. Even on Google+.

Other than submitting your ID documents/DNA/fingerprint evidence it's impossible for these services to be sure everyone is who they say they are.

It's actually worse since they lend a false sense of authenticity to posts.

Mix this with a mass sockpuppet technology such as that revealed by emails from HBGary - the US.gov-linked security company cracked by Anonymous earlier last year - and you can imagine the sort of thing it can do.

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/02/16/945768/-UPDATED:-The-HB-Gary-Email-That-Should-Concern-Us-All
Rating: 6 Votes
Posted: 37 months ago

I am NOT picking on you, but just want people to know that the forums on an internet board aren't really the place to report gov't abuse, or rant about your boss.

Why not talk with your HR dept. or a friend about your boss? Why does it have to be posted in an on-line forum for all to see? Do you really need to rant that much? How about just go outside and scream for a bit to relieve the stress?

Corrupt gov't? There are plenty of legal avenues for reporting government abuse and corruption that don't involve your name in any way.

I see everyday on these boards where someone will post an opinion, and several folks will come on and bash that person for their opinion. It really is sad to see the utter nonsense that people will post nowadays.


What gets me is that the "advancing" of the internet has madeit so easy for more ignorant people in higher concentrations. For whatever reason, stupidity loves congregating... and anonymity only seems to polarize the commentary, but I don't see it as making it any "worse" or better... I have plenty of idiot friends who blather on on facebook about their childish level of understanding of politics, or ignorant perpetuation of urban legend, stereotype etc.

But Prior to Facebook/etc, you had Website forums ( like this one ), prior to website forums, you had USENET. Prior to usenet, you had BBSes,Bitnet, and Compuserve forums. Prior to that you had social/semi-secret societies like Shriners/Moose/FreeMasons/Daughters of the Revolution. Prior to that you had Pubs and Bars.
Ignorant people in all of them, all wanting to be heard.

But the thing is, I can't agree with you when it comes to governing WHERE that stupidity should be said. It's not my right to shut someone up. They deserve to be heard. If someone wants to rant about their boss, that's there prerogative. Are they free to shout it on the street? Are they free to write a newspaper column about it? As long as it isn't libel or slander, then why shouldn't they be able to write about it on the internet?

But it's also within that bosses right to fire them... whatever the law permits that is.
But if someone is stupid enough to post that boss rant on a forum with their real name, knowing their own HR policy or state law about hiring/firing then they know what they're getting into. Reasonable man standard should apply here.

*BUT* government regulation requiring that all IDs be tied to real names or worse requiring that those names be displayed is absolutely the wrong way to go. If hat is ever enacted, the foundation of our country will be significantly damaged.

/ironic that my account is actually a representation of my real name. back when I didn't think about this very much. oops :)
Rating: 5 Votes
Posted: 37 months ago
Hmm, I see this as a problem.

This app was high in the ranks on the App Store. In other words, Frank made a lot from users like me who dropped $1.99 when the app went for sale.

Then, less than 3 months later, the app is pulled? What happens to the thooooousands of dollars that Frank made off this app?

He just gets to keep it?

I should be in the app-making business. I think I could make a few really good service apps that lasted 3-4 months before I pulled the plug and ran with money.

I understand something needed to change. However, pulling the plug (and keeping everyone's dough) should not have been the solution. Requiring logins, etc. would be a better alternative for the users who wished to keep using it.
Rating: 4 Votes
Posted: 37 months ago
People suck. Give them anonymity and they suck worse. Forums are a perfect example of places that punks can spout off against each other knowing full well that were it "real life" they'd be nursing a head injury. People are animals by nature and if you take away the reward or punishment motivation, they just revert to that animal instinct. Embarrassing to be part of it sometimes. That's why the best you can do, is be better.
Rating: 4 Votes
Posted: 37 months ago
I don't know what drives people to be trolls in numbers like that. It is a real shame, as most of those trolls are probably still good people with some kind of a vice that makes them act that way.
Rating: 3 Votes
Posted: 37 months ago

People suck. Give them anonymity and they suck worse. Forums are a perfect example of places that punks can spout off against each other knowing full well that were it "real life" they'd be nursing a head injury. People are animals by nature and if you take away the reward or punishment motivation, they just revert to that animal instinct. Embarrassing to be part of it sometimes. That's why the best you can do, is be better.


People do suck, but I love human beings. They look just like people, but try to do good because it feels right, hold their beliefs with some humility, and are considerate of others, even when anonymous. Their actions are too often drowned out by loud people, but human beings are more prevalent than it might at some times appear.
Rating: 3 Votes
Posted: 37 months ago
I've been a Postsecret reader almost since it started. If you read the opening page it's purpose is stated "an art project where people submit their secrets on handmade postcards." The curatorial process is near automatic because submitters actually have to put effort into their secret and Frank has to sort through all the cards to publish them. THAT's what makes it such a great site.

But making into an app and allowing instant un-curated submissions was a HUGE mistake from the beginning. Ask that kid who created Chatroullette, or any host of websites that tried to create instant anonymous photo submissions. Eventually all you get are penises and crackpots.

I'm so happy that Postsecret is now going to be kept an analog, tactile art piece.
Rating: 2 Votes

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