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

Wickr Me, an Amazon-owned encrypted chat platform, stopped accepting new users after Saturday and will shut down completely on December 31 this year, the company Announced.

The decision, first announced in November, follows several controversies surrounding the ultra-secure chat app, which allowed users to sign up without a phone number or other potentially identifying information, making it a favorite of groups concerned with security, including hackers, drug dealers, and journalists

In June, an NBC News investigation revealed that Wickr Me had become a go-to product for many people dealing in child sexual abuse material. The investigation identified 72 court cases from the last five years in which the defendant allegedly used Wickr (as it is commonly known) to exchange child sexual abuse material. Law enforcement officials and a representative from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children told NBC News at the time that Wickr was not doing enough to detect or report trading in 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 CSAM in all segments of our business, including Wickr, which maintains strict Terms of Use that clearly prohibit activity. We act quickly on reports of illegal behavior, respond promptly to law enforcement requests, and take appropriate action. Anyone who violates our terms is subject to account termination.»

“Wickr absolutely responds appropriately and cooperates with law enforcement on these critical matters,” the spokesperson said.

In its November statement, the company explained that it would be shutting down Wickr Me to dedicate more resources and focus on its business-to-business products, AWS Wickr and Wickr Enterprise. The publication did not mention business it has with government agencies, including the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security.

When NBC News tried to create a new test account in the app on Sunday, a pop-up appeared saying, «Wickr Me will no longer be accepting new users after December 31, 2022. Wickr Me will not be available after December 31, 2022.» 2023.»

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

In June 2021, Amazon Web Services acquired Wickr. Since the acquisition, the company had faced questions about its government contracts with agencies such as Customs and Border Protection and drew attention for its role in scandals involving records in which the application it was used to automatically destroy government communications.