Monday 24 September 2018

Messaging app used by paedophile to sexually exploit young children defends its safety procedures

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Robin Schiller

A messaging app used by an Irish paedophile to sexually exploit children as young as nine anonymously has defended its safety procedures, saying it has spent €8m on protective measures for its users.

Kik - an increasingly popular app - was one of four social media platforms used by depraved Matthew Horan (26) to send and receive sexually graphic images to at least 15 children in Ireland and abroad.

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard Horan would use Kik to share child porn images and videos with unidentified users from around the world, most of whom claimed to be young teenagers.

He would also send Kik messages to users, opening with the question: "Yo, wanna see some child porn?" before sending graphic images.

When asked what they were doing to combat sexual exploitation on their app, a spokesman for Kik said the company took "online safety very seriously" and it had committed $10m (€8m) to online safety.

"We are constantly assessing and improving our trust and safety measures. There are two ways we do this.

"One is through technology and constant improvements to the product itself. We encourage users to report content that they believe violates the Kik terms of service and community standards.

"Users are also able to block other users they no longer wish to chat with or ignore chats from people that they don't know."

He added that the company is attempting to educate adults and teens to "understand the challenges of today's online landscape and how to avoid bad situations".

The most recent available figures for Kik, dating to May 2016, show it had more than 300 million users.

"This is a priority for us. We have committed $10m for safety over an 18-month period and have a safety advisory board to help shape our safety strategy," the spokesman said.

In the app's advice for parents, it states that people logging into their children's Kik account from a new device automatically clears the chat history.

The company adds that it does not store chats between users and will not "be able to provide a copy of your teen's chat history".

Horan is due to be sentenced tomorrow after pleading guilty to 11 counts relating to child exploitation and distributing child pornography.

A number of other suspected sex offenders were uncovered during the Garda investigation into Horan.

Irish Independent

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