Kik Messenger Promised To Remove Child Predators -- I Just Found 10 In 2 Hours
In August, when Forbes reported it'd found nearly 20 profiles of charged or sentenced pedophiles on Kik Messenger, the hugely popular chat app's owners promised to do better and proactively remove accounts "for users who have been convicted of crimes related to child abuse."
Up until today, though, it's unclear what efforts $1 billion-valued Canadian firm went to in order to remove those profiles. With its 15 million monthly active users, 57% in the 13-24 age bracket, Kik had seemingly deleted just one user named in Forbes' investigation. But subsequently, this publication gathered more than 25 active Kik profiles linked to horrific crimes against minors, many of whom have been convicted.
In just two hours, some simple Google searching on Thursday last week turned up 11 profiles police had linked to child abuse crimes. Searching the Department of Justice website via Google, with terms like "Kik" and "username," provided a quick way to find profiles of convicted child abuse crimes.
In one of the most horrific crimes Forbes reviewed, 26-year-old Jason Janatsch was operating the username TheLoverOfTheLittle to send images of a female toddler, taken whilst he was babysitting, to a Kik contact in New Zealand. Janatsch was sentenced to 30 years behind bars in October 2016. His profile was still active as of Friday last week.
In another example, the profile jmayes773, operated by Jarrod Mayes, who was sentenced in 2016 to 60 months in prison, was still online. According to the DoJ, he admitted to first encountering child pornography on Kik, where he would later go on to share and acquire the illegal content.
Forbes' search for usernames of profiles of convicted child abusers and those sharing exploitation material occurred last Thursday. By Tuesday, Kik had been supplied with the full list of names linked to illegal activity. Later on Wednesday Kik said it had terminated users where it found publicly-verifiable information linking a Kik ID to a convicted sex offender. It didn't terminate those for which it couldn't find that data, but was continuing to dig Wednesday, a spokesperson said.
As part of its investigation into child exploitation on Kik, Forbes created fake profiles of 14-year-old girls, which received almost-instant contact from male users, some sending sexually-explicit content. A vast number of search warrants also revealed widespread sharing of child abuse material on Kik; in one startling case, a single suspect was found to be a member of more than 200 Kik groups all set up for users to share such illegal content.
Kik investing $10 million in safety
Kik, meanwhile, is building up to a big funding boost and the safety of children on the platform should benefit. The Canadian app is looking to raise a massive $125 million through the sale of its own cryptocurrency, Kin. On September 12, it announced it had already raised $50 million in a presale round.
Forbes understands Kik Interactive, the firm behind the messenger app, will devote $10 million of the funds raised to safety on its platform. That could see more roles dedicating to deleting profiles of pedophiles and child abusers.
CEO Ted Livingston confirmed in a statement sent to Forbes that Kik had launched "a new safety initiative, which is supported by a $10 million budget over the next 18 months."
"We have already increased our investment in moderation and are dedicating additional product development and engineering resources to this initiative," Livingston added.
"As a result, we have recently been able to conduct sweeps of more than 15,000 Public Groups, and terminated 4,000 of those groups after determining they were in violation of our terms of service. In the process of conducting these reviews, we also terminated 500 users and when appropriate made referrals to law enforcement. We want all users to feel safe on Kik and will continue to make Kik a safe, positive and productive place for our users to interact."