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Anonymous App After School Is Hoping Censorship Can Battle Bullies

After School is turning to an unlikely ally to win back Apple's favor: Censorship.

After School

It has been three months since anyone has been able to go to the App Store and download After School, an anonymous messaging app for high school students.

The app was banned by Apple in December after it ran into numerous safety issues with its high school user base, including multiple shooting threats. Parents and educators petitioned to have it taken down, and ultimately, Apple found that After School violated multiple App Store Guidelines. It was removed.

It submitted new versions of the app earlier this year with some security features built in, but obviously not enough to change Apple’s mind.

Now it’s trying (again) to get back into the App Store. Another new version of the app submitted this week is taking user safety to a whole new level: Total censorship.

Now, every post made by a student within the app needs to be approved by a human moderator before anyone can see it, co-founder Cory Levy told Re/code. Posts that fall under categories like “sexual,” “drugs,” or “profanity” won’t be shown unless a user has specifically requested to see that content, he added.

Nothing that looks like hate speech or bullying will be shown at all.

Users interested in seeing the mature content must be 17 or older, and must scan their driver’s license to prove it. Those who post mean-spirited content will have their accounts muted, or possibly removed entirely.

The censorship changes aren’t the only updates to After School. The company partnered with suicide prevention organizations so that when users type certain keywords or phrases, like “kill myself,” they’re asked to connect immediately to someone who might be able to help.

These are big changes for After School; the censorship model would be big for almost any consumer app on the market. But Levy isn’t concerned that he’ll push away users — the power of anonymity will keep people interested, he said.

But after three months out, are there even interested users left to push away? Apparently so.

After School was less than one month old at the time of the ban, and it seemed like the kind of out-of-sight, out-of-mind move that would put a dagger in the young app. But After School had experienced tremendous growth — more than 100,000 users across the country in less than three weeks before the ban — and Levy and his team of seven weren’t so easily dissuaded.

“Never once did that cross our mind to shut this thing down,” he said.

He said that he gets emails and tweets every day asking where to download the app. “People want what they can’t have,” he added.

Still, After School’s vacancy from the App Store has left room for other competitors to gain some traction. One of those is Burnbook, a similar anonymous messaging app that cropped up in December. The app has over 20,000 daily active users, according to CEO Jonathan Lucas, who says he’s fielding inbound interest from investors for the first time.

After School isn’t out of the doghouse yet; Apple still hasn’t approved its latest version, although it’s in review, according to Levy. He’s hopeful it will be approved “soon.”

After School

This article originally appeared on Recode.net.