“More than 1,500 complaints of unwanted sexual approaches, many targeting children, have been made against popular social networking apps in Apple’s App Store, in contrast to what Apple prominently markets as a “safe and trusted place,” according to a Washington Post investigation,” Reed Albergotti and Al Johri for The Washington Post:
Using a machine learning algorithm to identify App Store reviews containing reports of unwanted sexual content, racism and bullying, The Post sifted through more than 130,000 reviews of six random chat apps, all but one of which were ranked in the top 100 for social networking by Apple earlier this month. The Post manually inspected the more than 1,500 reviews that made mention of uncomfortable sexual situations.
About 2 percent of all iOS reviews of Monkey, ranked 10th most popular in Apple’s social networking category earlier this month, contained reports of unwanted sexual experiences, according to The Post’s investigation. Despite that, the app was approved for users 12 and older. The other apps included in the investigation were Yubo, ChatLive, Chat for Strangers, Skout and Holla. At least 19 percent of the reviews on ChatLive mentioned unwanted sexual approaches.
Apple says it reviews 100,000 apps a week using a mix of software and humans. “We created the App Store to be a safe and trusted place for our customers to get apps and we take all reports of inappropriate or illegal contact extremely seriously,” Apple spokesman Fred Sainz said in a statement. “If the purpose of these apps is not inappropriate, we want to give developers a chance to ensure they are properly complying with the rules, but we don’t hesitate to remove them from the App Store if they don’t.” The age rating on Monkey was raised to 17 and older this week after inquiries from The Post.
MacDailyNews Take: It’s a catch-22. If Apple were to remove third-party chat apps for the safety of minors and other users, as Apple obviously has no control what goes on during these chat sessions, the E.U., U.S., etc. would leap to slap the company with antitrust investigations and obscene fines.
No, Washington Post et al., Apple does not employ precogs who can anticipate what will take place during umpteen billion future chats via third-party chat apps and servers to which Apple has no access.
Parents (this seems painfully obvious, but we live in… uh, interesting times): Don’t let your kids download chat or even use chat apps if you don’t have the ability or the time to know exactly what your kid is doing online. Apple is not your child’s parent. Peruse yourself in the nearest mirror.
Parents, read and then actually do: Set up and use parental controls on your child’s iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.
Note also that anyone can write pretty much whatever they want in an App Store review and developers can complain until the end of time that the review is totally wrong, a bald-faced lie, the complete opposite of provable facts, etc. and Apple will do jack shit about it. We speak from personal experience. It’s a whole different problem with the App Store. So, any news report based on App Store reviews rests upon the flimsiest of foundations.