The rise in popularity of livestreaming apps is putting young teens and pre-teens at growing risk of becoming victims of sex predators and distributors of child porn, advocates say.
Apps like LiveMe let users livestream for strangers. LiveMe's policies allow users as young as 13. The company says it's still working on systems, including improved facial recognition, to deter younger children from signing up.
Arizona's Family spent about 15 minutes on the platform and found several examples of underage girls recording themselves dancing and posing suggestively, while anonymous viewers egged them on with compliments and virtual currency.
“The underdeveloped brain doesn't understand. They're after likes and affirmation. Their self-esteem is still being developed,” said child safety author and former school administrator Katey McPherson.
Security researchers say pedophiles sometimes record these live streams and sell them as child porn.
Det. Tanya Corder, a member of the Scottsdale Police Department’s internet crimes task force, said she’s aware of a case where an underage girl exposed herself for a few seconds. The video is now readily searchable on the dark web.
[RELATED: What is the dark web?]
“It was an eight-second mistake but it's going to change the course of her life,” she said.
Corder said it's even possible to track people through the app. Last year, a group in Canada whose mission is to fight child sex predators made headlines for tracking down one user and alerting police.
Using location data, the app shows users others who are broadcasting nearby. “That makes even more dangerous,” Corder said.
A LiveMe representative released the following statement:
As unfortunate and disturbing as some of these reports are, these issues are not unique to LiveMe, but reflect the challenges all social media platforms are confronting each day.
We strive to provide a safe and enjoyable platform for our users, relying heavily on AI and the 100 moderators we employ across the globe who are on call 24 hours a day.
LiveMe has had a tremendous impact on it’s users by fostering meaningful friendships, supporting amazing charities, and helping millions of people showcase their individuality each day. We will continue to focus on our mission to build the best live broadcasting platform, while working closely with law enforcement and the various agencies they support to protect our community.
McPherson is participating in a panel discussion on internet safety called “#IRL: In Real Life…” on May 17 from 6-8 p.m. at the American Leadership Academy. The event is open to the public.
Copyright 2018 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.