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Skout dating app blocked for under-18s over rape allegations

Skout has suspended its service for teenagers, after allegations that the dating app was linked to three cases of sexual assault on minors.

Skout dating app suspended 13 06 2012Enlarge
Skout has announced it is suspending its service for 13 to 17-year-olds, over fears that adults are using the app to prey on youngsters. (Skout/Screengrab)

Under-18s are no longer allowed to use the Skout dating app, after concerns that the service may have helped sexual attackers find and assault children.

Skout, which uses GPS software in smartphones to show members who else is nearby, made the decision after being linked to three recent sexual assaults on minors, the New York Times reported.

On its company blog, Skout explained that it kept its service for 13 to 17-year-olds separate from its adult users, with a number of extra safety measures in place.

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However, the safeguards hadn't been enough to stop "a few bad actors trying to take advantage of some of our younger members," Skout's founder, Christian Wiklund, wrote. 

"For now, we believe that there's only one thing we can do: until we can design better protections, we are temporarily shutting down the under-18 community."

According to the Times' tech blog, at least three of Skout's young users have been involved in sexual assaults. In California, a 24-year-old man is accused of raping a 12-year-old girl. In Ohio, a 15-year-old girl said she was raped by a 37-year-old man. In Wisconsin, a 21-year-old man has been charged with sexually assaulting a 13-year-old boy.

In each case, the Times said, the perpetrator posed as a teenager to access Skout's under-18 forums.

Wiklund told the paper that such misuse of the app was his "worst fear." He said the company was working on tighter security measures, including better ways to verify its users' age, and hoped to allow teenagers back "soon."

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Skout's announcement had attracted almost 700 comments within hours of being posted, many from users angry at being blocked and urging the app to bar the adults who abuse the service, not teens.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Skout is the largest location-based dating app, with more than 5 million subscribers. It was designed to be used by adults, but developed its separate teen network after becoming aware that under-18s were signing in to the adult service.

Skout's move comes the same week that another online community for teenagers, Habbo, suspended its chat function following reports that sexually explicit conversations were common, CNET noted.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/business/technology/120613/skout-dating-app-blocked-under-18s-rape