Syncing to a new low: the disturbing world in an app

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Syncing to a new low: the disturbing world in an app

Video-sharing app slammed over posts about teenage self-harm and sexually explicit content

Matthew Field

An app popular with teenagers that lets users post lip-syncing videos is under fire for allowing posts featuring self-harm, anorexia and sexually suggestive content.
Musical.ly, a Chinese video-sharing app that has proved a hit with teenagers, has been accused of allowing sexual content and disturbing videos to spread on the service. It is rated 13 and older, meaning teenagers can access it, but some users appear to be younger.
Thousands of posts tagged with hashtags like #cutting or #mutilation have been found on the app, while other code words like #sxy featured teenagers performing provocative dance moves or songs.
Users of the app post videos between 15 seconds and one minute long, which are then shared or commented on.While most videos feature users delivering songs or dancing, by searching for tags using a hashtag, users can find videos that appear sexual suggestive, or videos featuring images of self-harm.Problems with Musical.ly, which has more than 60 million active users, emerged in a blog post after a concerned parent explored the app.
Anastasia Basil, a concerned parent, found graphic videos featuring children, self-harm images and content encouraging anorexia, tagged as #proana.
“The worst thing is watching little kids (as young as eight) sexually objectify themselves,” Basil said. “My heart hurts not only for the exploited children, but for all kids who scroll Musical.ly.”
Other social media apps have encountered similar problems. In 2016 Instagram started responding to users who searched for tags such as “suicide” with a pop-up message offering to send them to a support page.Tumblr, the photo-sharing website, has also been notorious for featuring content related to self-harm, but now blocks searches related to these terms.
Musical.ly has no such filter, although the app has since removed several of the worst tags from its search tool, although the videos are still live.
Musical.ly told BuzzFeed it was considering adding features similar to Instagram’s pop-up offering support.
While Musical.ly is relatively unknown by many parents, popular photo- and video-sharing apps Snapchat and Instagram also suffered recently after a racist gif was found on both. Both apps removed the app keyboard service Giphy, which had allowed a picture featuring a “N***** crime death counter”.
Giphy said the sticker, which can be applied to photos and shared with friends, made it through because of a bug in its content moderation software.
The Daily Telegraph

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