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Gossip iOS App "Secret" warns users against potential libel

It's an interesting conundrum for an anonymous app. Rather, an app that allows users to post whatever text or juicy tidbits they want without any way to track who it is that said what. You can say anything, but you can't be mean about it.

No, really: You can't be a jerk. And if you are a jerk — or the app detects that the subject of your post is a person and, thus, you might say an anonymous jerk thing about them, you get a warning to play nice.

You'd be absolutely right to think that what we just described sounds a little odd, but such is the case with a new update to the San Francisco-based "Secret" app. The iOS-only app, which just recently confirmed that it received $8.6 million (£5.2 million) in funding, recently added a checking process that determines whether the subject of your to-be-anonymous post is a person.

If so, the app politely suggests that — if you're posting about someone — anything that is "defamatory, offensive, or mean-spirited are against the community guidelines and can be flagged / removed."

According to TechCrunch, a few Secret posters are noticing that the app's name-detection technology isn't quite working at a full hundred per cent just yet.

"I mentioned Woz in a secret and a dialog popped up warning me not to defame him. No such warning for poor Dave Morin," the anonymous Secret-poster commented.

Company executives confirmed the update to TechCrunch, adding a mention that this is but "a first step" in what might ultimately be a new set of content moderation schemes for the app. It's unclear whether those might go the digital route – perhaps allowing users to flag or delete posts that are overly offensive against a particular person — or whether Secret might use some of its war chest to employ a real-life moderator or two for the app's content.

If this all sounds like way too much like playground tale-telling, you'd be partially correct. The app's particular focus on Silicon Valley gossip and general tech industry murmurings — or, at least, the posters' interest in such — does make it a bit limited for more general gossip-sharers. However, Secret has self-reported that its users do seem quite a bit engaged:

"When we launched, we planned to spend the first 90 days learning, crafting and polishing the product before turning our attention to growth. We're now halfway there and have found a direct correlation between the number of friends a user has and their engagement on Secret," read s a blog post by Secret (on Medium, of course).

"Notably, 75 per cent of people with more than 5 friends come back every day. Furthermore, 90 per cent of users that engage in a conversation come back within the week, often several times per day. Data like this reaffirms our belief that there is opportunity to build a platform around rich and unexpected conversations."

Just not mean conversations.