Secret has received a great deal of attention since its first steps into the public eye in late 2013. Who wouldn’t want scandalous gossip about Silicon Valley professionals, SXSW visitors or even the veiled secrets of your close friends? But much like other anonymous apps, particularly Yik Yak, critics are concerned about cyberbullying. That isn’t unreasonable, given that anonymous sites can produce a lot of extreme behavior.
At SXSW, TechCrunch contributor Josh Constine quizzed Secret CEO David Byttow about bullying. Initially, Byttow was quick to dismiss the concerns, but he acknowledged later that Secret does have many restrictions and fail-safes in case there is bullying or defamation within the app.
Unlike some other services, the confessions made on Secret aren’t public, and there’s no way to search for posts. “The content itself has to spread for others to find it,” Byttow told Constine. The community is responsible for policing itself, which isn’t a terrible idea, but that’s not always going to work well.
Secret does have reporting tools, including a pop-up dialog box that appears when a real name is detected: “Posts that are defamatory, offensive or mean-spirited are against the community guidelines and can be flagged/removed.” Byttow also says that there will be an update that displays suicide prevention resources if a post mentions suicidal thoughts.
Cyberbullying is always a concern when it comes to anonymous services, but the issue is more complex than just rating the app 17+ in the App Store. Yik Yak decided to employ a nuclear option in creating geo-fences around middle and high schools. This early in Secret’s development, it’s clear that Byttow and his team want to foster a positive environment instead of just locking users out.