Wickr Me, an Amazon-owned encrypted chat platform, has stopped accepting new users and will shut down completely on December 31, according to the company.
The decision, first announced in November, comes after several controversies involving the ultra-secure chat app, which allowed users to sign up without providing a phone number or other potentially identifying information, making it popular among security-conscious groups such as hackers, drug dealers, and journalists.
An NBC News investigation in June revealed that Wickr Me had become a popular platform for many people trading child sexual abuse material. The investigation uncovered 72 court cases over the last five years in which the defendant allegedly traded child sexual abuse material on Wickr (as it’s commonly known). Wickr, according to law enforcement officials and a representative from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, was not doing enough to detect or report the trading of such material on its platform at the time.
“Wickr absolutely responds to and cooperates with law enforcement on these critical matters,” said the spokesperson.
The company announced in November that it was shutting down Wickr Me in order to devote more resources and focus to its business-to-business products, AWS Wickr and Wickr Enterprise. The post made no mention of its dealings with government agencies such as the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security.
When NBC News attempted to create a new test account on the app on Sunday, it received the following message: “Wickr Me will no longer accept new users as of December 31, 2022. Wickr Me will be unavailable after December 31, 2023.”
Wickr was founded in 2012 with the goal of bringing high-level encryption to a consumer messaging product. The company had raised $39 million in funding by 2015. Several news outlets reported the same year that the Islamic State terrorist organisation was using the app to recruit new members. The Deseret Morning News reported one of the first successful prosecutions against someone trading child pornography on the app in 2016.
Wickr was acquired by Amazon Web Services in June 2021. Since the acquisition, the company has faced scrutiny over its government contracts with agencies such as Customs and Border Protection, as well as for its role in record-related scandals in which the app was used to automatically destroy government communications.