musical.ly child porn problem

Musical.ly has (or had) a child porn problem

Without gatekeepers, kids can upload whatever they want, and anyone can see it.

- Nov 4, 2016

Here’s how to make a music video on Musical.ly, a social network based on lip-syncing and dancing to chart toppers.

The app, geared heavily towards pre-teens, has skyrocketed in popularity, growing from 10 million in 2015 to 90 million users last June. In the same month, Warner Music Group signed a deal with Musical.ly to license their music catalog for the app’s use. At the end of October, four of its biggest stars appeared on the cover of Billboard magazine alongside Musical.ly North American president Alex Hofmann, completing the crossover from novel web community to recognized industry influencer.

Its premise is similar to the recently deceased Vine, which was the condensed version of grandaddy Keek, where the idea was to turn your status updates into a short video monologue.

Users lip sync or dance to popular songs, and post clips for the world to see, promoted by hashtags. Anybody on its user base can like, comment and share others’ clips.

Impressionable audiences, the ability to share content across platforms, and content digestible to modern attention spans spells virality. But like any social network based on user-generated content, the presence of porn is inevitable. This is where Musical.ly puts themselves in a tough spot.

The popularity of an app like Musical.ly presents issues with marketing to and recruiting children to use social media. Censorship and rating guidelines for applications vary by company. Apple has rated the app for users aged 12 and up for many reasons, first on the list being “infrequent/mild sexual content and nudity.” The Google Play store simply rates it as a “Teen” download. Apple decides their ratings in-house, whereas Google turns to the Entertainment Software Rating Board for North America, according to the BBC.

Beyond app ratings (who pays attention to those anyway?), there is no gatekeeper for a children's app. That's worrying in the interest of safety, but it also speaks to the lack of education kids get before they're handed a smartphone.

Top 10 Viral Songs on Musical.ly 2016 | Best of Musical.ly Compilation

This site shares content that attaches a name or pseudonym, the poster’s face, and most likely, displays a cross section of the people they interact with every day with their followers.

Since The New Daily’s report, where they uncovered suspected child pornography — from an 11-year-old dancing suggestively tagged #f*ckgirl to underage full-frontal nudity — the app appears to have undergone a filtration overhaul. Searching simple tags like #f*ckgirl and #f*uckme no longer yield results. Either that, or users have found new hashtags to stash their n00dz.

Even if offending content was deleted from Musicial.ly, nothing truly dies on the internet.Some of that content has already migrated elsewhere, including at least one of the world's most popular porn sites (which we are not going to link). Even though Musical.ly’s seedy underbelly lived a short life, its images are now forever burned on the internet.

This also may sound melodramatic to people that are neither children, nor parents. The problem with some coverage of the issue, including this piece so far, is the general treatment of younger children like lambs. How on earth could those big bad app companies take advantage of our children like that? These online predators are just terrible!

We often forget that kids often don't have the experience or wisdom to protect themselves on apps like these. Kids were also running rampant and naked on sites like Omegle and Chatroulette before feed monitoring was introduced, for instance.

It's probably time to stop giving kids a blank cheque on the internet. That or we should learn to put in better checks and balances and remember that tech companies, or the music industry for that matter, aren't always in the safety business.

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