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'Tinder for teens'? The dark side of a teen app called 'Yellow'

Tinder for teens? The dark side of a teen app called 'Yellow' (ABC7)

Swipe right to connect. Swipe left to forget forever.

Sounds a lot like the popular dating app Tinder, but this one is called Yellow, and it’s attractive to underage kids.

In the App store, Yellow is billed as an easy and free way to build friends. Safety experts see it as an easy and free way to connect with total strangers.

“It’s what we're calling Tinder for kids, and we definitely don't need that,” Michelle Bush-Upwall of Internet Crimes Against Children told reporter Heidi Hatch of KUTV, a television station owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group.

Bush-Upwall worries that sex offenders will try to track down kids on Yellow by age and location.

When 7 ON YOUR SIDE showed the app to a group of 13-year-old girls, they thought the swiping feature made the “game” seem fun. There was zero thought given to whom they might be connecting with on the other side anywhere in the world.

7 ON YOUR SIDE signed up for a Yellow account, using a fictitious name and age: a 17-year-old named Samantha. Yellow’s rules say minors over 13 have to get a guardian’s permission, but it let us in anyway. Boys who claim to be anywhere from 17 to 13 reached out, writing mostly playful comments like, “Let’s have some fun.”

But Melissa Schaefer, a mom of three girls ages 19, 17, and 14 agreed to sign up her middle child. The comments were much more sexually suggestive: “Need a freak” and, “Ugly or not, will still take you.”

The experience with Yellow inspired her to look at her daughter’s YouTube account, where she posts reviews about teen clothing and makeup trends.

“When you look at analytics and realize men 40, 50, 60 years old are watching, that gives you pause,” said Schaefer.

And Bush-Upwall said there was an initial feature on Yellow that raised warning flags.

“If you swipe right, you auto-connected on Snapchat with strangers, someone you don’t know,” said Bush-Upwall.

Perhaps because of public pressure, Yellow told 7 ON YOUR SIDE that adding social media like Snapchat is now optional.

You can read the entirety of Yellow’s response to our questions below. (The screenshots that the company references did not appear in the email).

From: "Hello Yellow" {>}

Subject: Fwd: YELLOW

Hello,

There are no automatic links to Snapchat on Yellow. Users can add their social media usernames if they want to (Instagram, Snapchat, Musical.ly). Adding your social media is optional on Yellow.

Please find attached a safety briefing to understand that we take this topic very seriously. Also please find attached screenshots.

Safety Briefing on Yellow

Yellow is a very young company and is moving fast to ensure it is on par with industry standards for safety and security. As soon as concerns were made about the safety of young people on the service direct action has been taken, by hiring an online safety expert Annie Mullins OBE from the Trust & Safety Group and she is helping us to put in place a robust online safety strategy and significant changes have already been made.

Reports in the media have suggested the Yellow is somehow related to SnapChat, however, Yellow has no business relationship with Snapchat or any other apps. Yellow just allows users put their Musical.ly, Snapchat, Instagram username.

A small number of media reports in the media have also compared or suggested Yellow is similar to Tinder. Yellow is an App to help teens 13 years and over to make friends with other teens. Yellow uses the common product feature of ‘swiping ’ like many apps on the market, including dating apps but also apps for job-seeking and the publishing media, and the feature is popular with younger users.

Registration

Users are required to register for the service and their mobile number is recorded and verified as part of the registration process. When users register for the service they receive a clear statement of the Community Rules that inappropriate pictures or videos will not be tolerated and users are encouraged to report any suspicious or abusive behaviour or concerns.

Regular Alerts to users about ‘faking who they are'

Users receive an alert at regular intervals reminding them if they are sharing content that is inappropriate or if they are faking who they are, such as being younger or older their account will be removed from Yellow.

Age of Users

Like all other social media services such as Facebook and Twitter, Yellow relies users giving their real age, this is critical for the tools and processes social media companies like Yellow puts in place to be effective. Yellow is following industry standards already set in this area as set out in the UK Govt Social Media Guidelines.

Verifying Users changing profile to ‘over or younger than 18 years

Any user wishing to change his or her age on their profile after registering with Yellow have to send official proof of their ID for verification to the company, if they are under 18 years and want to change it to being18 and over, and similarly for anyone registered as 18 years wanting to change it to being under 18 years. This supports keeping fake profiles off Yellow and users pretending to be someone they are not.

Reporting and Blocking

Yellow like all social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter relies on users reporting concerns or difficulties they are experiencing.

A simple and effective reporting abuse feature is embedded in every profile for users to report abuse or concerns directly to Yellow and are responded to. Users can also ‘unfriend’ other users that are bothering them in any way like other social media services.

When registering for the service receive a clear statement of the community rules that inappropriate pictures or videos will not be tolerated and are encouraged to report any suspicious or abusive behaviour to Yellow

Responding to parents' concerns

If a parent contacts Yellow with concerns through the email address in the settings feature of the app hello@yellw.co or website www.yellw.co they will receive a dedicated contact form, so they can describe any concerns they have and these reports are prioritised by the Yellow team.

Moderation - technical

Yellow uses backend software to automatically block any nude profiles and detect and moderate users who use "Nude" in their names or usernames. A special form has been created to allow users to report any profiles that asking for nudes. Yellow has also created a database of 15k fake pictures and are going to create a software to detect these pictures in profiles and block them.

Moderation - human

Yellow has a team of human moderators who review content reported but also user profiles for suspicious behaviour 24/7, and particularly those that maybe fake where users are 'not who they say they are’. And users who do create fake profiles or share inappropriate content are blocked and removed from Yellow.

Yellow Safety Centre - available in the settings section on the App - see http://safety.yellw.co/

Yellow like other social media services and in line with good practice in this area is developing a safety centre with clear and simply information for users, parents and educators. Also in development is a law enforcement guide to help with their data requests when investigating crime.

Please find attached a number of screen shots to illustrate the App and accessing the safety tools and safety centre which is done directly through the settings feature on the app, similar to other App providers such as Instagram.

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