In review: FOSI 2013

This week, Skout's Public Relations Manager Jordan Barnes and Director of Community Gosia Aleta traveled to D.C. to participate in the annual FOSI Conference, held by the Family Online Safety Institute. The conference was packed with the biggest names in the digital space. Representatives from Facebook, Yahoo!, at&t and many more gathered together for two days of fresh and innovative content about how keeping online communities trustworthy and what the future of the space looks like. Our own Jordan Barnes was part of this year's speaker faculty and sat on a panel with representatives from Facebook, NCMEC, Metaverse Mod Squad and Moshi Monster. The panel explored how each of the companies is remaining at the forefront of innovation in their respective online communities. Thanks to all who participated and helped to make this year such a wonderful learning experience. Until next year!

Don't Get Caught by a Catfish

What do you think of when you hear the word Catfish? A whiskery fish that lives deep in the water, or the newer definition, a person who creates a fake online profile in order to seduce someone, often using fake pictures and information? If you chose number two, you are not alone, people from football stars like Manti Teo to the girl next door looking for love have been taken in by these so call“catfish” bottom feeders.

The Mtv show “Catfish” has helped to expose a wider audience to the term and the dangers involved. The show facilitates in person meetings between people who have had an online relationship but never met. It gives them the chance to prove (or not, as the case maybe) they are who they portray themselves to be online. We recently sponsored a bulk message from “Catfish” fishing,  (pun intended) for couples to be on the show, well this got us thinking. Being a docudrama the set up, of course, leads to more then one surprise and a lot of “how could they not have known” moments. But the truth is, almost anyone can be lured into a false situation, especially when emotions are involved.

We’ve seen our fair share of people pretending to be someone they are not, so I polled the office and from our combined our experiences came up with our top tips to keep from getting caught by a catfish.

  1. Don’t give out personal information to people online. This means everything from credit card numbers to your address to your mom’s maiden name. You would think this would be common sense. Because honestly, there is no reason why anyone would need it. Trust me, the chance that they were mugged and are now stuck in a foreign country with no money and no passport are so slim you have a better shot playing the lottery. Don’t give out personal information.
  2. Skype – the next best thing to meeting in person is seeing each other over the internet, ok, maybe not but at least you can see if that Calvin Klein model really is who you’re chatting with.
  3. Cyber stalk – for once it won’t be considered super creepy. Use the Internet to research the person you are chatting with, they should have a virtual footprint – Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Instagram. Do your homework.
  4. Social Red Flags – just because they have a Twitter doesn’t mean it’s real; anyone can get a twitter account. So make sure they have friends, followers and a real presence. Do they have an Instagram with no photos? That should be cause for pause. What about Facebook, only 3 friends, doesn’t that tell you something?
  5. Technology Red Flags – they are on a social networking site but yet they don’t have a cell phone, or access to a webcam. They can text all night long but they can’t pick up a phone, ever?! Really?!
  6. Go slow – someone who immediately says they love you should cause you to stop and think about why the declaration has come so quickly: either a. they are crazy or b. a catfish or c. don’t really know what love is. Either way, if they are saying they love you and can’t live without you after 3 days or even 3 weeks of chatting via text, email or IM there is something else going on.
  7. Listen to yourself – it’s called intuition and we all get. That feeling that maybe something’s not right, or that it’s too good to be true. Not to be a Debbie Downer but honestly, if it seems too good to be true it probably is.

Spring has Sprung

Hey guys, and girls, I thought I would share an email I recently got from a fellow Skouter. Ms. S wrote:

Dear Skout Wing Gal

I’ve been chatting with a fellow Skouter for a while and we’ve decided to meet in person. I’m super excited but there’s one problem, we started talking about where to meet and that’s when we ran into trouble. He joked we could meet at an Internet café, I LOLed…I said a public place would be good and now we’re kinda stuck. Where would you suggest we meet for the first time? I don’t just want to go to a bar because I think we really have something and I want the first time we meet to be special.

Well Ms. S you pose an interesting quandary, and not only whether there are Internet café’s left or not. Meeting in person, for the first time, can be exciting and nerve wracking all at once. I like your thought process of meeting in public. Not to be a nervous Nellie, but I always suggest the first time you meet someone should be somewhere public, and let your friends know where you are going, just to be on the safe side.

Now the where, spring is finally here so why not head outside! Pretend to be tourists in your own town and go to a museum or landmark. You can take pictures and post them to buzz!

Not feeling touristy, try something on the healthy side, a bike tour or yoga class. Afterwards you can grab a cup of coffee and get to know each other even better laughing about your balance in the poses or the funky bike path.

Skout Wing Gal - Keeping it real

Have questions, feel free to leave a comment or chat me on Skout and I'll help you out.

FOSI Gives Skout Two Thumbs Up on Community Safety Work

  We are very proud to share with our Skout community and friends that the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI) recognized Gosia Aleta, our very own community director, with an award for outstanding achievements in safety.

We’ve always been proud of the work Gosia and her team of 40 community managers are doing to keep our Skout community fun, healthy and ‘well-lit’ for all of our users, but FOSI’s award recognizes Skout’s outstanding community management staff and our industry leadership in safety measures.

We are setting the safety bar high and we are committed to developing and implementing the best tools, systems and educational methods that will keep you, our Skout community members, safe and engaged. Gosia’s recent recognition are important milestones for Skout and our work to ensure that you are protected and free to Skout away at your heart’s desire.


Skout Appoints VP of Trust, Safety & Community

 Skout recently named community safety expert Karen Barker vice president of trust, safety and community.

“As Skout’s community safety leader, Karen will ensure that trust and safety is built into everything we do,” said CEO and founder Christian Wiklund.

Barker will direct a global team of community managers, lead privacy and safety policy initiatives, collaborate with product, engineering and design teams, and oversee the enforcement of trust and safety policies.

“Our community is highly engaged and active because we create fun, positive experiences and have zero tolerance for bad behavior,” said Wiklund. “Karen will help us strengthen this commitment and guide us as we continue to implement some of the most advanced safety policies and technologies in the industry.”

Offering two separate and distinct communities for teens and adults, Skout is committed to cultivating peace of mind as community members easily and safely make new friends and enjoy features like chatting, virtual gift-giving and photo sharing.

Skout deploys advanced, proprietary technology that continuously monitors activity on the network to identify users whose behavior appears unusual, inappropriate or suspicious.  Under its zero-tolerance policy, Skout immediately bans users for inappropriate or suspicious behavior.

Barker is a customer safety expert who has designed and managed community care, fraud and risk programs for companies including Sprint, The Walt Disney Company, Restoration Hardware, and eHarmony.

Starting in 1990 as vice president of operations for SuperShuttle International, Barker worked with transportation associations and public utilities commissions to develop programs for the safety of passengers and drivers. She was instrumental in testing onboard safety technology including the first GPS-based vehicle tracking and dispatching system.

In her new role, Barker will be instrumental in actualizing Skout’s mission of connecting people around the world through a platform that is fun, engaging and secure.

“The opportunity to work with a community as dynamic and thriving as Skout’s is tremendous.  I look forward to building on the strong systems, tools and processes that reflect Skout’s top commitment, which is the safety of its community,” said Barker. “The Skout team has set the safety bar high and we will continue to work diligently to implement the best tools, systems and educational methods.”



Skout Teen Community Suspension

UPDATE 12pm PT 6/20:

Skout users,

As I mentioned in my last update, I'm genuinely moved by your response.  One thing is clear: you're as passionate about the Skout community as I am.  Your safety is our #1 priority and that's why we're taking this time to evaluate our procedures and work with experts to strengthen the measures we already have in place.

I also wanted to let you know that we are pushing an update to our iOS and Android apps that will be live within the week. This app update has been in the works for several months – it addresses a few bugs and introduces an improved user interface.

This does not change the suspension of our teen community.  We're still working 24/7 on our safety improvements, and I'll give you an update on when we'll be reopening the under-18 community as soon as possible.


UPDATE 11:10pm PT 6/13:

I am deeply touched by all the responses here, and understand the pain the temporary suspension is causing. Rest assured, we are working around the clock on this. While we are making good progress on building new features that will enhance Skout's safety  -- we are not quite there yet. Please, bear with us and hang in there!

Christian Wiklund, Founder and CEO


Today Skout has decided to temporarily suspend access to our teen community.  This is not a decision we made lightly, so let me explain in my own words why we chose this path.

The safety of our community is our #1 concern.  About a year ago, we noticed that a number of underage users were entering the 18+ community.  So, we thought long and hard about how to set up a safe network for teens and decided to broaden our reach to be more than just a dating app.  Since then, we’ve grown to become one of the largest mobile networks for meeting new people.

Our commitment to safety remains.  With more than a quarter of our staff dedicated to community management, we actively monitor and screen to ensure that the two separate communities for users 18+ and for teen users are kept distinct and that behavior is age-appropriate.  We deploy advanced, proprietary technology that continuously monitors activity on the network to identify users whose behavior appears unusual, inappropriate or suspicious.  Under our zero-tolerance policy, we immediately ban users for inappropriate or suspicious behavior.  Also, unlike many location-based apps, Skout provides general rather than specific location information, empowering each community member to decide if, when and where to meet in person.

However, it’s become clear to us that these measures aren’t enough.  In recent weeks, we’ve learned of several incidents involving a few bad actors trying to take advantage of some of our younger members.

We thought carefully about what to do.  We know how much Skout means to our teen community, and, at Skout, our community means everything to us. For now, we believe that there’s only one thing we can do: until we can design better protections, we are temporarily shutting down the under-18 community.

We are extremely sorry about this, but we don’t believe we have any other choice.  We will not compromise the safety of our community, and right now, our concerns are too significant to simply stand by and do nothing.  We are working around the clock to build better safeguards, including mechanisms for age verification, and we’re partnering with a leading risk management advisory firm to strengthen our current security measures.  We hope to have the community back online soon.

Again, I’m very, very sorry, but I hope you understand why we decided to take this step.  Skout means a lot to you -- it means a lot to me, too.  We want to do what is right, and that starts by doing everything we can to ensure the safety of our community.

- Christian Wiklund, Founder and CEO