The popular app Whisper, which lets users post anonymous gossip and confessions, may have some fessing up to do about its marketing practices.
According to a lawsuit filed in San Jose, Whisper violated a federal anti-spam law by sending unsolicited text messages that read: “Someone you know has anonymously invited you to join Whisper, a mobile social network for sharing secrets” and included a link to download the app.
The lawsuit comes at a time when Whisper is enjoying unprecedented buzz, including a celebrity scandal, as a platform where people can sate their appetite for anonymous rumor-mongering.
In this context, Whisper’s aggressive marketing tactics could provide further grist for the debate over so-called “growth hacking,” which typically involves apps that play fast and loose with a user’s address book. While such tactics are unpopular and can trigger legal backlash, they also provide the sort of user growth that investors, who have valued Whisper at $100 million, crave (the app reportedly has “millions” of users but has not disclosed specific numbers).
Whisper, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment, is not the only social messaging app to face legal trouble over its marketing. Path, the troubled “personal social network,” is facing a similar class action in Chicago over text spam, and was also forced to pay the FTC $800,000 in a related privacy controversy.
Here’s a copy of the lawsuit, which was filed in late January:
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