Social app shuts down after recent sexual assaults

June 13, 2012 7:16:53 PM PDT
A San Francisco social networking company has suspended one of its apps because of three recent sexual assaults of children. The company operates a popular flirting app called Skout, which has millions of users.

A 12-year-old girl from Escondido, Calif. told police she was raped by Christopher Nut, an adult stranger she met on the social networking app Skout. Police say Nut, 24, posed as a teenager.

"He's very crafty in how he got her to come out and was able to pick her up at her house and take her back to his house," Escondido Police Lt. Craig Carter said.

Two men in other cities have also been accused of sexually assaulting children they met on Skout.

The flirting app started out as a service for adults, but last year Skout launched a separate forum for 13-17 year olds. It was supposed to be more protected, with safeguards like parental controls and a program called "the Creepinator" which monitors nude photos and inappropriate sexual messages.

San Francisco Police Inspector Kenneth Esposto is an expert on internet sexual assault against children.

"You put all the safeguards you can to try to install all them so you may be able to protect children but the predators will always get around the safeguards," Esposto said.

Investigators say the three men accused of the sexual attacks went on the app for teenagers.

Tuesday, the company suspended access to it. Skout founder Christian Wiklund issued a statement which says in part, "Nothing is more important to Skout than the safety of our community. While the vast majority of our community uses Skout appropriately, a few have not and that is simply unacceptable."

Esposto maintains the best safeguard of all is when parents take charge..

"They won't have these applications unless the parents has paid for them; they won't be able to go on social networking sites if the parents block the sites," Esposto said.

Esposto says parents really need to have honest discussions with their kids about social networking.

In the meantime, Skout says it working with a task force of experts to improve its security procedures.


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