Founder Of Hit App Pretty Much Doesn’t Care It Causes Teen Suicides
By Paul Carr
Recently, Sarah Lacy wrote a blistering critique of anonymous gossip app, Secret, adding to a growing chorus of criticism of the service and its growing use as a tool for bullies and defamers. As the Economist put it:
Once, bullies taunted their victims in the playground; today they use smartphones to do so from afar. If you are bullied via Facebook, Twitter or text, you can usually identify your attacker. As a victim of an anonymous messaging app you cannot: at best you can only guess which “friend” whispered to the online world that you might be pregnant.
Sarah’s criticism wasn’t just aimed at the founders of the service, though, but also at those who funded it. As she wrote:
If Secret continues to grow with everyone trying to profit off of its popularity willfully justifying and ignoring the social cost, there will be Secret suicides. As a community, we will regret this. It will make the Craigslist killer and the Airbnb meth head-gate scandals look like nothing.
Apparently this hit a nerve with Secret founder, David Byttow who tweeted this morning in response the piece: @sarahcuda FWIW, the link in this article drove ~0.0013% of last 24 hour’s overall traffic to our home page. Thanks.
In a separate Tweet he dismissed Pando as a “small echo chamber.”
It took me a while to understand what Byttow was saying, and even longer to come to terms with how sociopathically callous he apparently is when it comes to human life.
Byttow’s argument seems to be that the relatively small number of people who clicked on a particular link in a story indicates that not many people saw Sarah’s criticism. And so therefore it was irrelevant.
The first part of that logic suggests that Byttow doesn’t understand how links work. According to our internal numbers, out of the thousands of people who read Sarah’s post, just 39 readers felt the need to click on the word Secret. Presumably that’s because the vast majority of Pando readers — especially those who clicked on a story about Secret — know full well what Secret is. It wasn’t exactly a story about a product launch. (By the way, if Byttow’s % is accurate, he’s claiming 3m pageviews for the front page of Secret.ly.)
Grotesque as it might seem, Byttow’s position on concern over his app’s potential to cause an increase in teen suicides is that criticism only matters if enough people see it. That is, young people killing themselves thanks to Secret only matters to Byttow if it becomes a PR problem.