Judge blasts messenger app Kik for failing to release messages from paedophile to young boys as he is jailed for 28 months for grooming 14-year-old

A judge has slammed messenger app Kik for failing to release all the messages of a paedophile - because he was only convicted of grooming one child.

Judge Mark Horton said the free instant messaging app limited the probe into Andrew Donovan's 'unmanageable deviant sexual impulse and attitude to children'.

Donovan, 35, was jailed by for 28 months on Friday for sending indecent images to a 14-year-old boy from Newcastle via the encrypted app.

The court heard Donovan would first use Facebook to make contact with teenage boys before moving to Kik to talk to them privately on there.

Judge Horton branded Kik's policy on dealing with the police and paedophiles 'frustrating'.

Because police only received one complaint involving one teenager, Kik only allowed police access to Donovan's messages with that child.

He said if complaints involving two or more children are received by the company it would open up access to all of the messages sent and received by Donovan.

The judge added that when asked by police Kik refused to release messages that Donovan might have sent to other children.

Kik was founded in 2009 by a group of students at the University of Waterloo in Canada who decided to build a company that would shift the centre of computing from the PC to the smartphone.

Unlike other messenger apps that require a working phone number, like Whatsapp, Kik uses usernames as the basis for accounts.

This, according to the app's website, is so 'users are always in complete control of who they talk to on Kik.'

This grants Kik's millions of users anonymity and makes the app encrypted.

It has run into mass controversy for its reported involvement in a number of child exploitation cases.

Critics have argued it allows predators to target it's overwhelming young audience.

Ted Livingston, the start-up's founder and chief executive, has said the service, reaches roughly 40 per cent of Americans aged 13 to 25.

The free app uses native advertising - including video advertisements - to earn revenue.

To target its primarily young audience, it also offers advertisers the chance to reach consumers using branded GIFs.

The app's guidelines says users must enter their birthdate and be 13 years of age or older in order to register a Kik account.

But, in a guide for law enforcement, Kik says names, emails and ages do not allow the company to find user accounts - the exact username is required. They will, however, preserve data for a period of 90 days, pending receipt of a valid order from law enforcement.

Data that may be available include basic subscriber information, such and names and email addresses, link to a current profile picture, device related information, birthdate and user location information, such as the most recently used IP address.

However, the company does not have access to content or 'historical user data' - such as conversations and photographs.

'Photographs and videos are not accessible to our Law Enforcement Operations team, and are automatically deleted within a short period after they are sent,' the guidelines say.

'We don't have access to the text of Kik conversations. For some versions of Kik, conversations are ONLY stored on the phones of the Kik users involved in the conversation.

'For other versions of Kik (which allows users to access their message history after logging out and then back in to their Kik account), the text of recent conversations is temporarily stored by us in a format that we can't read.'

Kik has around 300million users worldwide. Approximately 40 per cent of them are teenagers, particularly from the USA.

Bristol Crown Court heard how Donovan had a long history of offending, and was made the subject of a civil order in 2016 preventing him from making contact with anyone under the age of 18 - in person or online.

Civil orders are issued by courts to prevent offending when no specific crime has been committed that might have necessitated it. But Donovan, who was jailed on Friday, breached it.

Police going to his flat in Knowle, Bristol in November 2016 found him smoking cannabis with a group of teenage boys including two who were 16 at the time.

In May, he was arrested when police seized his phone and found he was messaging children under 18 on Facebook.

Donovan exchanged 228 messages with the victim in total.

He asked for pictures and then sent an indecent image. The pair also talked about meeting up 'for sexual relations'.

Judge Horton said: 'This was a classic conversation by a man who has inadequacies in dealing with adults and finds it extremely easy to talk to a 14-year-old to get him to like him.

'And that conversation turned very quickly to sexual matters.

'It's overwhelmingly obvious from all the evidence that you are someone that has an unmanaged and unmanageable deviant sexual impulse and attraction to children.

'You have shown your tenacity, determination and your ability to find new ways to make contact with young persons, and when you do, you have a strong sexual attraction to them.

'Despite the efforts of the probation service to prevent you, you have not engaged fully. You have no self-control mechanism.

'In mitigation, you pleaded guilty, and you are a vulnerable man who requires support to manage their day-to-day affairs.

'You have learning difficulties and those observing you found you treat benign events where others seek to help you as malicious events. You reacted with stress and confusion to your period on remand.

'But you have little remorse or understanding and you seek to blame others, that it was someone else's fault for not finding a way to block you from contacting young, under-age people.'

Mark Linehan, defending, said there was no suggestion Donovan had direct sexual activity with any child or young adult.

Mr Linehan added: 'There is a distinct lack of self-awareness. Although he is 35, Andrew Donovan is a man who is immature for his age.

'Even today, he lacks appreciation about the risk. He has vague and disordered thoughts, it's very difficult to properly communicate with Mr Donovan.'

A Kik spokesman told MailOnline: 'We take online safety very seriously, and we're 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.

'Actions are taken against users found to have violated Kik's Community Standards and TOS, including removal from the Kik platform where circumstances warrant.

'The other is through education and partnerships with organizations that help adults and teens understand the challenges of today's online landscape and how to avoid bad situations.

'For years, we've had teams dedicated to this, and we will continue to invest in those types of tools, provide resources to parents, and strengthen relationships with law enforcement and safety-focused organizations.

'This is a priority for us. We want all users to be safe on Kik and will continue to make Kik a safe, positive and productive place for our users to interact.'

Mike PalmerComment