Skout suspends under-18 service after it's linked to rapes

After three reports of sexual assault in which men allegedly posed as teenagers on the location-based flirting app, Skout suspended its 17-and-under community for "safety upgrades."

Skout

Skout suspended its 17-and-under community following reports of men posing as teenagers to prey on minors on the mobile social network.

The creators of the popular location-based flirting app suspended the site at 1 p.m. PT to adjust safety and security measures, according to Skout's blog post on the suspension.

The shutdown upset users who posted comments on the blog post, asking when the site will be back up. A Skout spokesperson said it will make a decision about reopening the teen community after it has concluded an evaluation and made the adjustments.

In the last two weeks, three cases of reported sexual assault against minors involved men who allegedly posed as teenagers in the Skout forum for 13 to 17-year-olds in order to meet or identify their victims, according to the New York Times.

In Escondido, Calif., a 24-year-old man was accused of raping a 12-year-old girl. In another case, 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, according to Patch.com.

Skout is partnering with a risk management advisory firm to ensure make the best technical safeguards are implemented, including age verification.

Skout CEO Christian Wiklund explained his decision in a company release:

After working with law enforcement on a few troubling incidents in recent weeks, we have decided that this is the right step to ensure the safety of all of our users. While the vast majority of our community uses Skout appropriately, a few have not, and that is simply unacceptable. We know how much teenagers value Skout, and we apologize for this disruption of service, but we hope they will understand that we are acting in the best interests of the community.

During this temporary closure, Skout will be testing and updating safeguards. Skout currently monitors and screens profiles to look for unusual, inappropriate or suspicious behavior. If a profile looks suspicious, the company bans the user's phone and Facebook account from accessing the app. The company said it bans "over tens of thousands of devices" from the service each month.

Skout's closure comes as another online teen community, Habbo, placed restrictions on its users today after a news report found that the site allegedly had users engaged in sexually explicit interactions.

Update, 6:31 p.m. PT: Updated with Habbo information and response from Skout.

 

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