Earlier this summer, Whisper — the creepers app that allows people to send and receive meme-ified messages anonymously — wanted to become a viable news source.
The idea: if you have real, possibly unflattering news to share and don’t want to be outed by the soothsayers at TMZ, you post it on Whisper.
Also: a legitimate source is now some dude with a smartphone, a happy trigger-finger, and an axe to grind.
Then, came along Gwyneth Paltrow to ruin all the fun.
Whisper claims to be “the safest place on the Internet” because people can say what they want about whoever they want and no one can be
tracked judged for a single word. Why? Anonymity.
It’s the reason cyber bullying is one of the nation’s most rampant problems with more than “95 percent of social media-using teens who have witnessed cruel behavior on social networking sites say[ing] they have seen others ignoring the mean behavior” (Source).
Trolls are bad, but Whisper has no problem rewarding their cowardice, which is why these memes have become “reliable” sources to stir the rumor mill. So, why is Gwyneth to blame?
Remember the dunderheaded announcement of Apple’s parents and their “conscious uncoupling“? Apparently, the news broke on Whisper weeks before Paltrow had a chance to address it, according to Gawker’s twisted socialite cousin, Defamer. Paltrow threatened to sue the makers of Whisper if the GPS coordinates behind the message weren’t revealed (she hasn’t backed down).
Of course, that can’t happen because it’s Whisper, which is why people heart the app so much. But it turns out that this “anonymity” may not be such a great safety net after all, which is why BuzzFeed and Fusion are cutting ties with Whisper.
The Guardian published a story on Thursday revealing that the supposedly anonymous social network provides users’ location data to the U.S. Department of Defense, the FBI and Britain’s national security service MI5. The paper had used Whisper in the past for its reporting, but has since suspended its relationship.
In direct response to the story BuzzFeed and Fusion, a startup cable channel and digital media network, announced that they, too, would be dropping the platform as a partner. “We’re taking a break from our partnership until Whisper clarifies to us and its users the policy on user location and privacy,” a BuzzFeed spokesperson told Digiday in a statement.
As it turns out, journos really do want a source that is a confirmed human being instead of just a screen name.
Yes, America, the media is still interested in ethics. It’s a brave new world. Join us…and Gwyneth.