Whisper is an anonymous smartphone application that launched in March of 2012. This app provides an outlet for people to share their thoughts in an anonymous format and allows them to read content posted by others as well. As the name may imply, Whisper serves as a platform for people to share thoughts that they may consider to be secrets. Users type a message or "secret" into the app, which then suggests an accompanying background photo. Alternatively, the user can search through their own photos and customize the look of their post. Users can scroll through popular posts, recent posts, or specific categories of posts and can “heart” them or reply to other users who post content. Although Twitter and Facebook are both popular platforms that people utilize to share their thoughts, the anonymity afforded by Whisper differentiates it. Whisper has experienced rapid growth and attracted a massive user base, reaching over 20 million active users and over 10 billion monthly page views in 2015. Like many other social networking applications, Whisper has its own set of controversies and ethical issues, such as privacy and security, law enforcement conflict, and cyberbullying.
Whisper was created in 2012 by Michael Heyward and Brad Brooks, with Heyward being the son of entertainment industry magnate Andy Heyward. Brooks and Heyward co-founded WhisperText LLC and the Whisper app is the major product of the company. This app allows users to share information, opinions and confessions anonymously. Heyward and Brooks created the application because they felt that mainstream social media sites attempted to put categorize people and forced them to construct an identity. Rather than maintain a specific reputation, they believe people are more concerned with connecting to other people without the pressure of constructing a perfect profile. Whisper provides a platform to express concerns, joys, and fears without the potential of judgment or ego-based motivations. In doing so, people have the opportunity to hear from other individuals who may be experiencing the same struggles.
The app allows users to tell the world a secret without having to expose themselves, consequently providing a safer social networking space, or in other words a more private version of Facebook. The app gives people a community of support to share their thoughts and feelings while staying safe and unexposed, and allows for over-sharing without consequences. Whisper also acts as an outlet for groups with opinions about a specific topic or issue. For example, when a majority of social media applications were blocked in Iraq, Iraqis took to Whisper to share their statuses and updates rather than sit back in the dark.  It is interesting to note the rise in popularity of anonymous social media platforms, such as ask.fm, a social forum site that lets users ask anonymous questions, Secret, PostSecret, and Yik Yak. While anonymous apps and sites can help users express themselves in ways they would not be able to do so in the real world, there are drawbacks such as encouraging bullying behavior and inappropriate content.
Since its inception in 2012, the growth of Whisper has been exponential. In May 2013, the app still had about 2 million users before going on to reach 20 million users by 2015. During this period, Whisper also exploded with page views increasing from 250 million per month to 2.5 billion per day. Part of this increase in user base can be attributed to Whisper's decision to expand to the Android market to reach a larger portion of its target demographic: young adults between the ages of 18 and 24. When the Android app first hit the Google Play store, it received about 50,000 downloads in the first 48 hours without any commercial advertising by the company.
Each user has a handle that is tied to them but they do have the opportunity to change it. After seeing a post, a user can respond to a post publicly or privately. Whisper offers users to view posts by local location and in specific categories. When first opening the app, a user can view content sorted by different categories such as the latest, most popular, nearby, school-related, and other types of posts. Whisper allows users to search for content, chat with other users, favorite chats, invite friends to join, delete chats, block other users from messaging you, share whispers on other social networks, and flag content that violates community guidelines.
Whisper contains a variety of categories that users can search through for specific types of content. These include Confessions, Personal, NSFW, Family, School, LGBTQ, Work, Animals, Tattoos and Piercings, Military, Food, Fashion, Faith, and Sports. While they can search for certain types of content, users do not have the option to post to a specific category. Whisper currently uses an algorithm to sort content into categories by itself. Apart from the distinct categories, Whisper also showcases specific posts, such as "Popular Whispers". Confessions are also categorized into a article format based on their relevance, such as "20 Husband Share Their Honest Reactions To Their Wives' Ultrasounds" or "21 Encounters From When Adopted Kids Met Their Birth Parents". This showcases how Whisper is using confessions as a means of creating more substantive content on the site.
The location-based feature allows users to look at whispers nearby and at a specific school or area. There is an option to look closer or farther away under the Nearby tab. Each post also shows the exact distance from where a user is at the time of viewing. This geolocation feature has raised ethical concerns such as stalking and loss of privacy. The other location-based feature is the ability to set the school that a user is around. The user must submit a request saying that they are on campus and get approved before viewing these kind of posts and posting themselves.
In accordance with its policy of anonymity, Whisper does not require people to share their real names, physical address, phone numbers or other identifying information. However, the app may store IP addresses associated with devices that posted content. Like with any social media app, and especially anonymous apps, privacy and safety are big concerns. There are also many issues with cyberbullying, threats, and people who share things that should be reported to law enforcement. With the rise in popularity of these apps, the number of unintended uses and consequences have skyrocketed as well, raising ethical concerns for many people, especially teenagers. The issue of inappropriate content, bullying, and privacy threats has become so large that many anonymous apps, including Whisper, have begun outsourcing content moderation overseas in an attempt to better moderate and filter content. These companies hire a team of individuals whose sole purpose is to scour and remove harmful posts on these types of apps. 
Privacy & Safety
Whisper has guidelines in place in the case that law enforcement needs to be involved, stating that it will turn over information in the case of requests from law enforcement. However, user information will only be revealed in the case of due legal process, such as being presented with a subpoena or court order. Given that an individual's personal identifying features are not required to use the app, Whisper does not promise that it will be able to identify the source of public posts. All law enforcement requests for user information must include the user's Whisper display name, an image of the user's public post, the specific information that is required and an explanation of why it is needed and the date by which a response is required. However, when "Whisper believes, in good faith, that an emergency involving a danger of death or serious physical injury to any person requires disclosure without delay", information may be released to law enforcement authorities without legal proceedings. There are both benefits and drawbacks of the privacy mechanisms employed by Whisper. Some benefits are that it creates a sense of security for users, protects reputations, and promotes freedom of speech. Whisper was created on the basis of fostering anonymity and privacy for users and these guidelines uphold that tenet. A few drawbacks are that it may increase cyberbullying and reduces overall safety in the scenario that there is a threat and law enforcement is not able to respond quickly enough. The lack of "authenticity" on the site may be a source of concern for some users as well. 
Threats & Law Enforcement
There have several instances in which law enforcement officials have used Whisper to capture criminals. Because individuals can post any "secret" on the app, almost any type of content is allowed. In 2015, a fifteen year old Massachusetts girl was charged with making a threat to her school on social media that referenced the Columbine High School massacre in Colorado. Police were able to locate and arrest the girl after receiving a tip about the post on Whisper. Police reported that Whisper gave them the GPS location data to track the girl down. In 2014, police officers used Whisper in a child sex sting.  An officer pretended to be a 13 year old girl and communicated with a man who posted on the app requesting a female companion. In their correspondence, he detailed the type of sexual encounters he wished to have with the underage girl and officers were able to arrest the man. In this case, assuming a false identity resulted in a positive outcome. However, this also raises the question of how lack of authenticity in the site can potentially influence people in a negative manner. For example, if an individual posted content about struggling with mental illness, an another individual may pose as a therapist and offer them advice that may actually be damaging. The raises questions about the safety of users in an online environment that is highly unregulated and lacks personal identification.
While the entire concept of Whisper revolves around anonymity, users can still send private messages to users who post content, which can lead to cyberbullying and attempts of stalking. There are also the dangers of online predators. While this is the case with any online platform, anonymity may exacerbate this concern because it is challenging to read into suspicious activity. This app is geared towards young adults who are usually the most susceptible to online predators, specifically at night when many social media apps are accessed. It is difficult to toe the line between keeping the role of anonymous server and being sure that the safety of users is a priority.