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Police are investigating after a 13-year-old girl’s father reported Dec. 31 that an unknown person had requested nude photos from his daughter over a mobile app.
The girl sent at least one nude photograph at the request of a person on the mobile chat app called “Kik,” James City County Police spokeswoman Stephanie Williams said. The exact number of photos she sent is not known at this time.
The girl told her parents the person who had requested the nude photographs was a boy her age from Texas, although it’s unclear whether that is the true identity of the Kik user, Williams said.
“That’s one of the problems with Kik,” Williams said. “You’ll find that even I can go on there and say ‘I’m a boy who’s 12 from Texas.’”
The 13-year-old reported she had been talking with the Kik user for about two weeks, police said.
Kik is an international chat app with over 300 million registered users, according to the Kik website. Kik, which is headquartered in Ontario, Canada, was founded in 2009.
The app allows users to connect with their friends on other social media platforms and in games, through chatting and sharing media. Users can sign up under an alias, which is not their legal name, making tracking the recipient of the 13-year-old’s photos difficult, Williams said.
“It will take some time to investigate and track down who’s at the other end of this,” Williams said.
“We take online safety very seriously, and we’re constantly assessing and improving our trust and safety measures, ” Kik Director of Communications Rod McLeod said in a statement to WYDaily. “We believe it is possible to both protect user privacy and get rid of bad actors on our platform, using a combination of technology and human effort to remove users who violate our terms of service or harass other users.”
In October, Kik unveiled SafePhoto, a technology that detects, reports and deletes known child exploitation images sent on Kik, McLeod said. SafePhoto supplements Microsoft’s PhotoDNA, which reviews Kik profile pictures and deletes known illegal images, according to the Kik website.
Kik has also upgraded its users’ ability to filter unknown senders and report content or contact that violates Kik terms of service, McLeod added.