Amazon’s chat app ‘Wickr Me’ a haven for child porn and creeps ‘who exploit children’: report

In a disturbing revelation, court documents show that an encrypted messaging app owned by Amazon Web Services called “Wickr Me” has become the platform of choice for pedophiles and “people who exploit children,” and according to law enforcement officials and experts on the subject, Amazon is doing very little to stop the exchange of child pornography.

“Court records show that Wickr Me has become part of a toolkit used by people who exploit children,” NBC News reports.

What’s more, the problem is a global one.

“NBC News reviewed court documents from 72 state and federal child sexual abuse or child pornography prosecutions where the defendant allegedly used Wickr (as it’s commonly known) from the last five years in the United States, United Kingdom and Australia, using a combination of private and public legal and news databases and search engines,” NBC News noted. “Nearly every prosecution reviewed has resulted in a conviction aside from those still being adjudicated.”

Wickr isn’t the only big tech platform with a child porn problem, according to data gathered by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC). NBC News notes that “child sexual abuse material” is readily available on Reddit, Tumblr and Twitter, but it’s Wickr’s lack of measures to combat the problem that is drawing criticism.

“Wickr needs to do more in regards to identifying and taking steps to prevent child sexual abuse material being traded on their platform,” said NCMEC Vice President John Shehan, who said roughly 3,500 reports of child sexual abuse material on the app were made not by Wickr, but by third parties.

In contrast, the Meta-owned Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram apps employ algorithms to detect signs of child pornography and, as required by U.S. law, report all known or discovered images to NMEC.

In 2021, Facebook alone made more than 22 million reports, while Instagram and WhatsApp made nearly 3.4 and 1.4 million reports, respectively. This is a good thing, say experts, as it shows Meta is being proactive.

Wickr, on the other hand, self-reported just 15 instances of child porn.

Though Wickr does have a much smaller user base than any of Meta’s apps, both experts and law enforcement are certain Amazon’s app is used by those who traffic in images of children being sexually abused.

“It’s very clear that they’re not taking any proactive efforts on their own to identify this type of activity,” said Shehan.

In response to the allegations, a spokesperson for Amazon Web Services said, “Amazon is committed to preventing child sexual abuse material (CSAM) in every segment of our business, including Wickr, which maintains strict Terms of Use that clearly prohibit illegal activity.”

“We act quickly on reports of illegal behavior, respond immediately to requests from law enforcement, and take the appropriate actions,” the spokesperson continued. “Anyone found to be in violation of our terms is subject to account termination. Wickr absolutely responds appropriately to, and cooperates with, law enforcement on these critical matters.”

The attraction of Wickr to pedophiles is understandable, albeit despicable.

“Users communicate with individuals or groups in an encrypted format, which strips messages of identifying details,” NBC explains. “That ensures only the sender and receiver can ever see their content, leaving hardly any trace of details about the conversation which could be accessed by law enforcement or Amazon.”

“That technology,” reports NBC News, “along with settings that allow for self-deleting messages, has made Wickr an attractive tool for many who seek privacy, including individuals conducting criminal activity.”

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