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Kik Had a Huge Child Predator Problem. Now It's Shutting Down.

But the anonymous messaging app that's popular with kids isn’t shuttering over any past allegations of abuse.

by Emma Ockerman
Sep 24 2019, 4:04pm

Kik, the anonymous messaging app once considered a haven for child predators, is shutting down after an SEC complaint over the company’s separate cryptocurrency venture.

It’s unclear when the app, previously valued at as much as $1 billion, will officially close, and it’s still available for download. But all of the approximately 100 staff charged with running Kik will be let go, according to the BBC. Hundreds of millions of people currently use the app, which launched in 2010 and quickly drew allegations of fostering a criminal community due to its anonymity and popularity with kids.

A 2017 Forbes investigation unearthed several cases where child predators used Kik to abuse kids or share their abuse with fellow predators. For instance, a man pleaded guilty in 2016 to taking sexual photos of a 2-year-old, which he then shared with other Kik criminals. And one BBC investigation discovered the app had played a role in nearly 1,100 child sexual abuse cases in the U.K. over a five-year period.

In 2016, a 13-year-old was even murdered by two men she met on Kik, leading some parents to scrutinize the app’s widespread popularity. Kik worked with investigators to provide information that led to the murderer’s arrests, according to the New York Times.

The FBI has since taken over some suspects’ Kik profiles to infiltrate child pornography rings and stop further abuse, according to Forbes. As is often the case, it’s likely that predatory communications will just shift elsewhere after Kik’s closure. In recent months, there’s been increased attention on the sexual messages sent on more popular apps like TikTok, Instagram, and Snapchat.

In the meantime, the feds might lose a tool they’ve grown accustomed to using.

But the messaging app isn’t shutting down over any past allegations of abuse. In fact, Kik Interactive’s chief executive, Ted Livingston, didn’t so much as mention the app’s problematic history in a Medium post Monday night. Instead, the post focused on the company’s more recent trouble with its cryptocurrency, Kin, launched in 2017 through an initial coin offering.

The Securities and Exchange Commission sued Kik in June, alleging the company had skirted investor-protection laws through that $100 million fundraising round, according to the Wall Street Journal.

“Going forward, our 19-person team will be focused on one goal: getting millions of people to buy Kin to use it,” Livingston wrote.

Cover: Teenagers screen time. File photo dated 03/01/2018 of social media apps displayed on a mobile phone. Photo credit: Yui Mok/PA Wire URN:42160129 (Press Association via AP Images)