The mobile application Skout, which was designed to facilitate flirting between adults, has chosen to ban minors from the application after three men have been accused of raping children they met through the service, reports the New York Times
The company claims that they had sufficient safeguards against misuse, particularly among minors, and that the claims come as a surprise.
Skout is a platform which allows users to exchange pictures, send messages and virtual gifts, while also identifying users’ locations. Initially created with adults in mind, the app began a separate site for minors to minimize risks associated with adults communicating with those who are under age.
To further ensure the safety of its users, the site uses 20 of its 75 employees to screen suspicious behavior through the use of "the creepinator," a technology which checks user interactions for inappropriate messages or pictures. Despite attempts at protecting its underage users, Skout is taking the blame for inadvertently facilitating the sexual assault of minors.
“I’m disgusted by what’s happened here,” said Christian Wiklund, Skout’s founder. “One case is too many. When you have three, it looks like a pattern. This is my worst fear.”
Of the three alleged rape cases, the most recent involves a 12-year-old who went missing in California. After checking her phone, the police found that she met 24-year-old man Christopher Bradley Nutt through Skout. The young girl was found at the offender’s home who now faces charges of sex with a minor, child molestation, and child pornography.
On Tuesday, the company temporarily halted the app for its teenage users to further assess the security of the app. “I thought we were doing a lot, but obviously we have to do better,” said Scott Weiss, an investor in the app. “This is a five-alarm fire. The entire company is re-evaluating everything it’s doing.”
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