In this age and time of social network connections, online flirtation has become permissible to everyone, even the minors. Skout, a GPS-enabled social networking site and app for mobile devices, provides a convenient platform for these kinds of liaisons. But after reported cases of rape involving teens and adults posing as minors on Skout have surfaced, the flirting app has decided to limit membership to users aged 18 and above. All three rape cases took place in different states within the U.S. and all involve victims who are under 15 years old.
The New York Times have reported that all of the three men accused of rape posed as teenagers on Skout, specifically on a forum targeted to minors aged 13 to 17-year olds. In Portsmouth, Ohio, a 15-year old girl accused 37-year old Gene Zimmerman of rape, after the two connected on Skout. In Escondido, California, 24-year old Christopher Bradley was accused of rape by a 12-year old girl. A 13-year old male from Wisconsin and a 21-year old known as Daniel R. Schmidt – who posed as a 16-year old boy – were caught engaged in a sexual act in a Milwaukee park by local police officers, after the boy sent nude pictures to the man on Skout.
As a result, the social networking website and app have placed a provisional ban on users aged 18 years and below. In a blog post published by Skout founder Christian Wikilund, he made it clear that the decision to ban minors from the site was not an easy decision to make. The safety of Skout as a web social platform remains to be their topmost priority, however, with top management making sure that members behave appropriately and according to their respective age.
In an email to Mashable, Skout has revealed that they are working with a top risk management advisory firm and law enforcement, as a way to guarantee the safety of teenage members on the site. The site/app also plans to use advanced technical safeguard tools, specifically those for age verification purposes.
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