Skout dating app suspends teen service after rape allegations

Skout screenshot
Image caption Skout says it is working with a risk management advisor to strengthen its security measures

The location-based "flirt" and meet-up app Skout has suspended its service to teenagers after being linked to three sexual attacks.

The software uses phones' GPS chips to help members see who is nearby, allowing them to contact each other.

It had sought to operate two separate services: one limited to 13-17-year-olds, the other designed for older users.

However, the firm said its safety measures had proven to be insufficient.

"Unlike many location-based apps, Skout provides general rather than specific location information, empowering each community member to decide if, when and where to meet in person," the firm's chief executive, Christian Wiklund, wrote on its website .

"However, it's become clear that these measures aren't enough. For now, we believe there's only one thing we can do: Until we design better protections, we are temporarily shutting down the under 18-community".

The San Francisco-based company said it had members in more than 100 countries.

Alleged attacks

The move follows a report in the New York Times about three alleged rapes committed by men posing as teenagers in Skout's under-18s forum. It said:

  • A 15-year-old girl in Ohio said she had been attacked by a 37-year-old man
  • A 24-year-old man had been accused of raping a 12-year-old girl in Escondido, California
  • A 21-year-old man from Waukesha, Wisconsin faced charges of sexually assaulting a 13-year-old boy
Image caption The app allows users to send messages, pictures and flirts to each other

Teenagers using the site criticised the move in comments below Mr Wiklund's posting, saying they had been given no warning and in many cases had lost contact details for friends they had made on the service.

However, several also suggested there had been other worrying incidents.

"Over the past couple weeks some people sent me nude pics of their bodies and it scares me," wrote one user.

"Also someone was being racist on me... it scares me when I get these messages," the user added.

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