An analysis by the Washington Post of iOS chat app reviews found more than 1,500 reports of unwanted sexual behavior , some of which targeted children.
Many of these reports were aimed at children.
The document states that Apple continues to make apps available on the App Store because the company does not read or analyze customer reviews, and therefore remains unaware of the problems.
Using a machine learning algorithm to identify reviews on the App Store that contain reports of sexual content, racism and unwanted bullying, The Post has scoured over 130,000 reviews of six random chat apps. The Post manually inspected the over 1,500 reviews that mentioned unpleasant sexual situations.
About 2% of all Monkey’s iOS reviews, ranked 10th in Apple’s social networking category earlier this month, contained reports of unwanted sexual behavior. Despite this, the app has been approved for users aged 12 or over. The other apps included in the investigation were Yubo, ChatLive, Chat for Strangers, Skout and Holla. At least 19 percent of ChatLive reviews mention unwanted sexual approaches.
The Post notes that among the apps reviewed some ” are available on the App Store in some cases for years and are among its most popular ones “. The Post reports that a former Apple executive said his practice was not to monitor user app reviews. According to the report, Apple said:
“We have created the App Store to be a safe and reliable place for our customers to get apps and we take all inappropriate or illegal contact reports very seriously … If the purpose of these apps is not inappropriate, we want to give developers a ability to make sure they comply with the rules correctly, but otherwise we will not hesitate to remove them from the App Store. “
The report states that for the aforementioned “Monkey” its age range was changed to 17 years and over as a result of the investigation.
The nature of random chat apps, of course, makes all users vulnerable to exposure to totally uncensored and unregulated content of any kind. It could be argued that people who use these apps run the risk of exposing themselves to this kind of thing. However, if, as in the case of ChatLive, almost 1/5 of all reviews have reported unwanted sexual approaches, surely Apple should manage and better adjust the situation.
If the report pushed Apple to review the age rating of an app like Monkey, perhaps an immediate solution to part of the problem would be to re-evaluate and increase the age limit on all such apps. This at least could help reduce the risk posed to children. A more permanent solution, like the one offered in the report by the former Apple App Store review director (2009-2016) Philip Shoemaker, would be to permanently remove these apps from the App Store.
Apple recently removed 181 vape apps from its App Store for health reasons, proving to take general action against apps that it considers potentially harmful to its users.