If you are visiting Brazil you might find yourself with one less app due to a recent court injunction. On Monday, August 18, 2014, Judge Paulo Cesar de Carvalho granted an injunction, which mandated that Secret-Speak Freely be removed from Apple’s App Store and Google Play along with the Microsoft equivalent, “Cryptic,” from the Windows Phone Store. More controversially, the companies were also ordered to remove the apps from all devices in Brazil within ten days, after that they will be subject to fines of 20,000 Brazilian Real (~$9000.00 USD) each day they fail to comply. There has been some question if this applies to visiting devices or devices imported to Brazil.

These apps are designed to share the user’s thoughts, ideas, or authentic self with their friends and acquaintances. The apps access the user’s contacts and allow user to create posts, heart posts, and comment on posts. Any user action is sent to the user’s friends, who also have the app. Readers do not know which of their first or second connection friends content they are reading. Sharing secrets has become popular in the past several years as evidenced by websites and books including PostSecret. Acting anonymously is a stark contrast from Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, all of which connect a name and likely a picture with any and all actions by the user. PostSecret launched its website where weekly postcards with secrets are displayed in 2005. PostSecret marketed an app in 2011 on iPhones only. The PostSecret App was removed from the App Store after a several months due to a relatively small percentage of posts that were pornographic, threatening, or violent in nature. These negative posts did not stop the desire for a private platform; Whisper, Confide, and Yik Yak have all come on the market since the PostSecret App shutdown. Unfortunately, this negative type of content is exactly what brought Secret and Cryptic to the authorities attention in Brazil.

Secret-Speak Freely was release in Brazil in May 2014. The Brazilian government received complaints of bullying on the apps, including an incident in which an intimate photo of a citizen was shared broadly with identifying information. These complaints prompted the public prosecutor to seek this injunction. While the Brazilian Constitution allows for free speech, it bars anonymous speech. Secret-Speak Freely maintains that the app is not anonymous because the company can ascertain who is posting what and is reportedly willing to turn that information over to the government in criminal investigations. It also argues that the app is less anonymous than then similar apps because the posts are only shared with friends and then the secret must be shared to continue to reach people. In response to the large number of complaints, the developers put in place a “no-bully” filter. Unfortunately, this shield is not impenetrable, rumors and bullying content is still being disseminated through the apps. Users in the United States also have the ability to report inappropriate content on the app by simply swiping the inappropriate content to the left of the phone screen and tapping “Report.” However, the reporting process in Brazil appears to be much more complicated. To report, a user would have to send a removal request in English to a judge in the United States via the Brazilian foreign ministry.

This entire situation raises some basic questions. Should secrets and anonymity be protected, or should people have the right to hold other people accountable for their speech? Do these restriction on speech render the speech not free? Is speech only powerful when someone accountable is accountable for it?

Cassidi Hammock

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One Response to Secret-Speak Freely And Cryptic Are Not Welcomed In Brazil

  1. Carol Harshbarger says:

    Thought provoking. Free speech is a right we often take for granted, people should always remember that your words and opinions my result in unintended consequences you may not be ready for.