'Tinder for teens' phone app allegedly being used by paedophiles in NZ prisons

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1 NEWS

The child exploitation unit at New Zealand Police has fired a warning over controversial phone app Yellow, amid allegations paedophiles are using it to target Kiwi teenagers.

Internet watchdog NetSafe has confirmed three complaints about the social networking site which specifically targets 13 to 17-year-olds - but where users can lie about their age and identity.

Its developers say their site is to help kids make friends, but 1 NEWS has found it littered with sexually-charged images, some too graphic to broadcast.

In less than 24 hours of signing up to an account, posing as a 13-year-old Kiwi girl, the first response was from a supposed 15-year-old Auckland boy, whose message said: "Can we have sex please?"

Additionally, a source inside Corrections has told 1 NEWS that convicted paedophiles in this country are using Yellow.

Dubbed "Tinder for teens", Yellow allows users to do far more on its platform than popular dating site Tinder - including sending live video to several recipients.

NetSafe chief executive Martin Cocker confirmed the complaints about suspicious behaviour on Yellow and that he is concerned about paedophile activity on the app.

"It's sort of perfect for criminals of that type," Cocker said.

Fears over Yellow and its risk of exposing children to online predators have been spreading around the world including in the UK and the US, where the FBI issued a warning about the app in March.

Those fears have now spread to New Zealand.

Detective Senior Sergeant John Michael, officer in charge of the Online Child Exploitation Across New Zealand (OCEANZ), said authorities are urging parents to be on alert.

"Police recommends parents and caregivers sit down with their young people and speak with them about the dangers of viewing or engaging in such behaviour as directed by this app," Detective Senior Sergeant Michael said.

The Paris-based developers behind Yellow describe their app as "a new social media to meet new friends and have fun with them".

Their marketing material also says "friendship is going to the next level!" but when questioned about that statement by 1 NEWS, Yellow denied that statement means sex.

"No, we do not. Yellow is a social media platform that enables teens to make new friends and connect with their peers either in their area, or around the world. It is not a dating site," Marc-Antoine Durand, chief safety officer at Yellow said.

"We do everything we can to keep teenagers safe, and we take our responsibility of safety seriously. Like all networks, we occasionally have to deal with unpleasant or inappropriate behavior.

"We make it a priority to deal with these proactively and responsibly. This is why we have gone beyond the industry standard in our safety features, and constantly review our safety procedures.

"We do not tolerate any inappropriate or predatory behaviour on our site."

Corrections said it has no knowledge of prisoners using Yellow.

"We currently have no evidence of the Yellow phone app being used within prisons. Anyone who thinks that they have had illegal contact from a prisoner using a cellphone from prison, or has received other concerning contact, should immediately notify police, anonymous crime reporting line Crimestoppers or Corrections," a spokeswoman said.

"Cellphones are contraband in prisons, and we go to great lengths to prevent prisoners from having access to them.

"All prisons use an extensive range of methods to prevent contraband entry.

"These include extensive perimeter security, camera surveillance, searches of staff, contractors and visitors, and their vehicles, scanners and x-technology and specialist detector dog teams, including dogs that can detect cellphones.

"When we are notified that a prisoner may have access to a contraband cellphone, we take immediate action. Prisoners found in possession of contraband are charged through the internal misconduct system.

"If found guilty, they can be sanctioned with a loss of privileges such access to hobbies or telephone calls or visits in excess of minimum entitlement, forfeiture of earnings, or cell confinement.

"Depending on the type of contraband and circumstances, the matter may also be referred to police for consideration of criminal charges."

By Simon Plumb


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