Kik took new steps today to detect illegal images — like child pornography — and protect young users of the messaging app.
Roughly 60 percent of Kik’s 300 million registered users are between the ages of 13 and 19.
“Some of the stuff that may seem commonsense to us [adults] isn’t intuitive for young teens on a social messaging app, so we want to make sure people have the tools they need to stay safe,” said Kik senior counsel Christina MacDonald.
All new images and videos are now blurred by default, so users can choose whether they want to see the media sent to them by unknown senders.
“SafePhoto detects, reports, and deletes known child exploitation images sent on our platform. SafePhoto uses a data-matching program that scans for these images automatically and without human review,” the company said in a statement.
In March 2015, Kik started to use the Microsoft PhotoDNA service to identify victims of sexual slavery and others flagged by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Last month, Kik started a partnership with ConnectSafely to create a parents’ handbook. Kik is also a member of The Technology Coalition, a small anti-sexual exploitation group, whose members include Facebook, Google, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
“As a platform, we have a responsibility for the wellness of our users. We don’t want to be a company that doesn’t deal with certain issues because they’re uncomfortable,” a Kik spokesperson told VentureBeat. “We want to make sure that users that are not well or are having a hard time have access to services that can help make them better.”
Safety in chat is an issue of increasing debate and importance.
Chat platforms have emerged as the most-trafficked and most-commonly used form of communication on the planet, after phone numbers. They beat out emails and SMS messages.
European Union officials are currently considering regulation of WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger on par with phone and SMS regulation, and officials may require platforms to provide emergency services.
Koko connects distressed people to artificial intelligence programs that can help comfort them, and it wants to integrate human empathy into bots and intelligent assistants like Alexa and Cortana.
There’s a Koko bot on Kik and on other chat platforms, but Koko also became part of the Kik Team bot in March. The company is considering an integration of Koko into the entire Kik platform.
“Whenever users mentioned certain ‘hot’ words like ‘depressed,’ ‘sad,’ or ‘break up,’ we’d suggest that our partners at Koko can help them with handling difficult situations,” a company spokesperson told VentureBeat. Exact trigger words are still being worked out.
A Crisis Text Line integration for the Kik platform is still being developed, MacDonald said.
“I think that the power that you can have through a messaging platform to affect millions of people, the reach and scope that it has is really extraordinary, and I think it’s something that can be used for very good purposes,” MacDonald said.