Kik and the rise of the porn-bots

Kik is a popular messaging app, aimed at adults and children alike. It’s been around for a while now, but recently has come in for criticism for the amount of “spam bots” on the app.

These are quite a common problem, but when I received this message on Kik it really caught me by surprise:

At The Professionals Online Safety Helpline we’ve had quite a few chats with Kik about online safety, so when I received this my blood pressure rose up a little.

How can they be sending messages like this? While the app isn’t specifically for children, it is known that a lot of children and young people use it, so encouraging users to swap pics is incredibly irresponsible. It wouldn’t take much before some unsuspecting children could be seeing a lot more than they bargained for.

The misogynistic undertones of the message also bothered me. Who says I want a beautiful woman?

So I did what any online safety “expert” would do and clicked on the dodgy link. I was then met with a series of questions to establish that I wasn’t looking for a relationship and would use protection if I met someone from the site.

On the final question, I confirmed I am at least 24 years old (not verified at any stage) before landing on a page that no amount of stars or shapes could sanitise. I did not get, as promised, beautiful women form my area, but some rather hard-core pornography instead.

On further investigation this seems to have become a common occurrence on Kik, ever since they launched promoted chats. It’s not just porn bots, its marketing, brands, TV producers and all sorts. Forbes have written an article going into more detail about this.

When I told my boss about this, she shared that she had also been contacted on Kik by a couple of accounts that did not seem to be who they said they were:

Considering she doesn’t really use Kik and her profile picture is actually her, that’s right HER, it feels like this message might be a scatter-gun approach. If we did engage in conversation, and started swapping some nude photos I have a feeling this could end up developing into an extortion incident and we would be giving our partners at the Revenge Porn Helpline a call.

As long as bots are a thing, porn bots will probably be a thing, so it’s worth being aware of these risks. Luckily for me, I have good anti-virus software. If you like chatting on Kik, it might be worth looking into getting some for yourself.

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