Wickr Me, Amazon’s encrypted chat app, stops accepting new users

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Wicker Me, an Amazon– owned encrypted chat platform, stopped accepting new users after December 31st and will be completely shut down on December 31st of this year, according to a company announcement.

The decision, first announced in November, follows much controversy surrounding the highly secure chat app, which allowed users to sign up without a phone number or other potentially identifying information, making it a favorite of security-minded groups such as hackers , drug dealers and journalists.

In June, an NBC News investigation revealed that Wickr Me had become a product of choice for many traffickers of child sexual abuse material. The search identified 72 court cases from the past five years in which the defendant allegedly used Wickr (as it is commonly known) to market child sexual abuse material. Law enforcement officials and a spokesperson for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children told NBC News at the time that Wickr did not do enough to detect or report the trafficking of such material on its platform.

In a statement provided to NBC News in June, an Amazon Web Services spokesperson said: “Amazon is committed to preventing child sexual abuse material (CSAM) in every area of ​​our business, including Wickr, which maintains a strict Terms of Service which clearly prohibit illegal activity. We act quickly on reports of illegal behavior, promptly respond to requests from law enforcement authorities, and take appropriate action. Anyone found to be violating our terms is subject to account termination.”

“Wickr is fully responding appropriately and cooperating with law enforcement on these critical matters,” the spokesperson said.

In its statement in November, the company explained that it was shutting down Wickr Me to devote more resources and focus on its business-to-business products, AWS Wickr and Wickr Enterprise. The post did not mention his dealings with government agencies, including the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security.

When NBC News tried to create a new test account on the app on Jan. 1, it got a pop-up that said, “Wickr Me will not support new users starting December 31, 2022. Wickr Me will not be available after December 31 -2023.”

Wickr was founded in 2012, applying high-level encryption to a consumer messaging product. By 2015, the company had raised $39 million in funding. That same year, several outlets reported that the Islamic State terrorist group was using the app to recruit new members. In 2016, one of the first successful prosecutions of someone selling child pornography on the app was reported by the Deseret Morning News.

In June 2021, Wickr was acquired by Amazon Web Services. Since the acquisition, the company has faced questions about its government contracts with agencies such as Customs and Border Protection and attracted attention for its role in records-related scandals in which the app was used to automatically destroy government communications.

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