Apple, Google Pull App Linked to Sextortion Scams

Wizz, a Tinder-style app aimed at teens, says it's trying to remedy the 'technical hiccup'
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 1, 2024 9:55 AM CST
Apple, Google Pull App Linked to Sextortion Scams
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/monkeybusinessimages)

A Tinder-style app geared toward teens has been yanked from both Apple and Google's app portals after warnings about sextortion. NBC News reports that, according to emails it viewed, Wizz was pulled on Tuesday from the Apple App Store following pushback from the National Center on Sexual Exploitation on the alleged sextortion scams, in which "someone threatens to distribute your private and sensitive material if you don't provide them images of a sexual nature, sexual favors, or money," per the FBI. A Google rep noted that the Wizz app was also taken off of Google Play on Tuesday, citing the company's child endangerment policy and asserting that apps in its store need to "prohibit users from creating, uploading, or distributing content that facilitates the exploitation or abuse of children."

The Wizz app, whose parent company is French mobile publisher Voodoo, lets users as young as 13 congregate in its "safe space" for making friends, permitting profiles that show a user's first name (along with a picture), age, state of residence, and zodiac sign, per NBC. However, according to recent research by the nonprofit Network Contagion Research Institute, Wizz, Instagram, and Snapchat are "the leading platforms where youth are being targeted by financial sextortion." And it's not an uncommon phenomenon: From October 2021 to March 2023, the FBI and Homeland Security Investigations logged more than 13,000 reports of financial sextortion online against the underage set, leading to at least 20 suicides.

On Wednesday, the NCSE thanked both Apple and Google for taking action, writing on X: "This app connected children with strangers, leading to grooming and abuse. This step of social responsibility is vital for online safety!" On social media, Wizz didn't mention the sextortion claims, but simply noted in an Instagram story that it's "currently taking a break from the app stores due to a technical hiccup," per NBC. "We're working super hard to get everything sorted out and back to normal ASAP." It's not clear what the brand is doing to try to get back into the app stores. (More apps stories.)

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