The Evolution of Apps in relation to sexual offending

Written 6th December 2021 by Laura Baumanis

A number of indecent images clients have recently discussed their use of Kik, having been approached by police in relation to possible sexual offending.  Their understanding had been that the site was encrypted, and so law enforcement agencies could not access any images or messages that were sent.  They were surprised to find that this could not be further from the truth and that the site was actually actively engaging with the police, suspending profiles, and reporting suspicious activity.

The reality is that all sites and applications are under pressure to take firm action against criminal activity.  When apps get a reputation for being abused by paedophiles, or online offenders, their popularity dwindles, sponsorship reduces, and they have to take action.  We then receive an influx of cases where people have, sometimes inadvertently, found themselves in receipt of illegal images, or been engaged in sexual conversations with people who are underage, that are then reported to the police.

So what happens when one site takes positive and effective action?   The issue does not disappear, but simply moves onto different applications.    The criminal justice system sees waves of cases relating to one application, before it is rarely heard of again, and is simply replaced by another.  The internet is constantly evolving, which allows offenders to continue with their conduct, often undetected, and allows those who are vulnerable to engage in activities which too easily take them over to the wrong side of the law.

Which apps are used for sharing images?

Yellow, is a Tinder-like app for teenagers, allowing them to chat with other people purporting to be of a similar age.  Omegle is an online chat website, which enables strangers to make contact with others, similar to Whisper, which is an anonymous chat site which encourages users to meet new people and exchange secrets.   Then there is ‘Hot or not’, which works as a dating app, on which strangers rate a person’s profile, with the hopes of encouraging ‘hook ups’.

Burn-book, an app presumably based on the film ‘Mean Girls’, encourages members to post rumours about other people via various different mediums, including photos and videos, and Wishbone is a site the allows members to compare young users against each other and place them on a ‘scale’.

The app, which is essentially a standard program which allows users to ask questions in order to elicit the correct response, has actually been linked to some of the most extreme examples of cyber bullying.  Even the relatively innocent app Calculator also acts as a photo vault.

Essentially, any application that permits the sharing of messages, whether written, audio, or visual, can be used for the sharing of indecent images.  Instagram is one of the most popular social media sites for children and young people, but the fact that messages are deleted once the user leaves the conversation, allows for it to be abused.

Specialist indecent image solicitors

Users do need to be safe whilst exchanging information online, and mindful of who they are speaking to.  The increase in cases of possession or distribution of indecent images is very clearly linked to how easily accessible they now are, and how social applications are so readily abused.

If you have received anything of concern via any social media platform, or have, perhaps inadvertently, viewed content that may be illegal, it is important that you obtain specialist advice as soon as possible.

If you wish to discuss instructing Olliers please contact Ruth Peters on 0161 8341515 or by email to

Laura Baumanis

Laura Baumanis



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