App Store under fire over apps allowing unwanted sexual advances towards minors

An investigation found Apple has received more than 1,500 reviews detailing unwanted sexual advances made through the "random chat apps" available on the tech giant's App Store

Apple has disabled user reviews after a recent investigation found that the App Store might not be the "safe and trusted place" it claims to be. The company received thousands of negative reviews from users for hosting apps that allow unwanted sexual advances, some towards minors.

Random Chat Apps - a haven for predators

The investigation, conducted by Washington Post, revealed that Apple's app marketplace received more than 1,500 reviews detailing unwanted sexual advances or remarks made through certain "random chat apps" that are available for download on the App Store – including advances made towards underage kids and teenagers.

App Store
App Store

The publication employed a machine-learning algorithm to comb through more than 130,000 reviews for apps that promote anonymous interaction between users like Monkey, ChatLive, Yubo, Chat for Strangers, Holla and Skout (two of these apps are on our list of social media apps that are used by predators and sex offenders) They found more than 1,500 reviews that mentioned instances of uncomfortable sexual situations.

User Reviews

"A man who is sick in the head and disgusting decided to show some things that shouldn't have been shown," one user pointed out in a September review of the app Monkey, while another wrote, "This is a lawsuit waiting to happen. Predators are all over this site."

A similar incident happened to a New Orleans-based mother, Katie Brander, who took away her 14-year-old daughter's iPhone after she noticed she was constantly on her phone late in the night. Brander was shocked when she found that her daughter wasn't chatting with her friends but instead talking to older men, many of whom sent sexually explicit photos of themselves, pressuring her daughter to reciprocate on the Yubo app.

Is Apple even listening?

On its website, Apple vows to remove apps that contain inappropriate content, pornography or put children at risk. However, Apple does not read App Store reviews for clues to determine whether an app is in violation.

"Ideally what you want is a bot to go through the reviews," said Phillip Shoemaker, Apple's director of App Store review from 2009 to 2016. "If they did, we'd be seeing a lot more apps getting pulled off the store."

Except ChatLive, all of the guilty apps mentioned above are also available on Google's Play Store for Android devices, where reviews also mention unwanted sexual approaches. But, Android has always promoted itself as a more open platform with fewer restrictions on apps, even allowing users to install apps outside of Google's app marketplace, something Apple doesn't allow.