Live streaming apps put young teens at risk for sex predators, advocates warn

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Security researchers say pedophiles sometimes record these live streams and sell them as child porn. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Security researchers say pedophiles sometimes record these live streams and sell them as child porn. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
They're after likes and affirmation. Their self-esteem is still being developed,” said child safety author and former school administrator Katey McPherson. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) They're after likes and affirmation. Their self-esteem is still being developed,” said child safety author and former school administrator Katey McPherson. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

The rise in popularity of livestreaming apps is putting young teens and pre-teens at growing risk of becoming victims of sex predators and distributors of child porn, advocates say.

Apps like LiveMe let users livestream for strangers. LiveMe's policies allow users as young as 13. The company says it's still working on systems, including improved facial recognition, to deter younger children from signing up.

Arizona's Family spent about 15 minutes on the platform and found several examples of underage girls recording themselves dancing and posing suggestively, while anonymous viewers egged them on with compliments and virtual currency.

“The underdeveloped brain doesn't understand. They're after likes and affirmation. Their self-esteem is still being developed,” said child safety author and former school administrator Katey McPherson.

Security researchers say pedophiles sometimes record these live streams and sell them as child porn.

Det. Tanya Corder, a member of the Scottsdale Police Department’s internet crimes task force, said she’s aware of a case where an underage girl exposed herself for a few seconds. The video is now readily searchable on the dark web.

[RELATED: What is the dark web?]

“It was an eight-second mistake but it's going to change the course of her life,” she said.

Corder said it's even possible to track people through the app. Last year, a group in Canada whose mission is to fight child sex predators made headlines for tracking down one user and alerting police.

Using location data, the app shows users others who are broadcasting nearby. “That makes even more dangerous,” Corder said.

A LiveMe representative released the following statement:

As unfortunate and disturbing as some of these reports are, these issues are not unique to LiveMe, but reflect the challenges all social media platforms are confronting each day. 

We strive to provide a safe and enjoyable platform for our users, relying heavily on AI and the 100 moderators we employ across the globe who are on call 24 hours a day. 

LiveMe has had a tremendous impact on it’s users by fostering meaningful friendships, supporting amazing charities, and helping millions of people showcase their individuality each day. We will continue to focus on our mission to build the best live broadcasting platform, while working closely with law enforcement and the various agencies they support to protect our community. 

McPherson is participating in a panel discussion on internet safety called “#IRL: In Real Life…” on May 17 from 6-8 p.m. at the American Leadership Academy. The event is open to the public.

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Derek StaahlDerek Staahl is an Emmy Award-winning reporter and fill-in anchor who loves covering stories that matter most to Arizona families.

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Derek Staahl

This once-uncompromising "California guy" got his first taste of Arizona in 2015 while covering spring training baseball for his former station. The trip spanned just three days, but Derek quickly decided Phoenix should be his next address. He joined CBS 5 and 3TV four months later, in August 2015. Before packing his bags for the Valley of the Sun, Derek spent nearly four years at XETV in San Diego, where he was promoted to Weekend Anchor and Investigative Reporter. Derek chaired the Saturday and Sunday 10 p.m. newscasts, which regularly earned the station's highest ratings for a news program each week. Derek’s investigative reporting efforts into the Mayor Bob Filner scandal in 2013 sparked a "governance crisis" for the city of San Diego and was profiled by the region’s top newspaper. Derek broke into the news business at WKOW-TV in Madison, WI. He wrote, shot, edited, and presented stories during the week, and produced newscasts on the weekends. By the end of his stint, he was promoted to part-time anchor on WKOW’s sister station, WMSN. Derek was born in Los Angeles and was named the “Undergraduate Broadcast Journalism Student of the Year” in his graduating class at USC. He also played quads in the school’s famous drumline. When not reporting the news, Derek enjoys playing drumset, sand volleyball, and baseball.

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