Before Facebook decides whether to allow kids 13 and younger to officially have their own (monitored) Facebook accounts, they should consider what's happened with the social networking app Skout, which has been used by at least three adults across the country to find and allegedly sexually assault minors in the past two weeks.
The app, which has millions of users and recently got $22 million in funding by Andreessen Horowitz, lets people sign in using Facebook and swap photos and IMs while connecting to nearby users via GPS. At first, Skout attempted to draw an 18-and-over audience, but had to create a service for teenagers after minors started using the service in droves. Founder Christian Wiklund said that Skout removes "tens of thousands of devices a month" from the service based on technology it calls "the creepinator," which monitors photos and chats for any inappropriate behavior. Jeez, "tens of thousands" of creepy-seeming people are booted from the app every month? That sounds like a terrifying network to navigate. And, according to the New York Times, it kind of is:
In one case, a 24-year-old man was accused of raping a 12-year-old girl in Escondido, Calif. In the second, a 15-year-old girl said she had been raped by a 37-year-old man she met using Skout. In the third, a 21-year-old man in Waukesha, Wis., is facing charges that he sexually assaulted a 13-year-old boy. In each case, the men are accused of posing as teenagers in a Skout forum for 13- to 17-year-olds.
To its credit, the company has responded quickly and extremely well: Wiklund said the company will start suspending all teenagers from the app as of today and is actually banning all registered devices until it can figure out how to improve its age verification and "scrutinize company practices," i.e. figure out a way to lower its horrifying sexual assault rate.
"I'm disgusted by what's happened here," Mr. Wiklund said in an interview on Monday. "One case is too many. When you have three, it looks like a pattern. This is my worst fear."
After Rapes Involving Children, Skout, a Flirting App, Faces Crisis [New York Times}
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