Wizz removed from Apple and Google stores over sextortion concerns


Wizz, a growing social media app among American teens, was removed from the Apple App Store and Google Play Store on January 30.

Apple and Google had been contacted by the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, a conservative American anti-pornography organization, which thanked the two giants. on “for starting the Wizz app from their app stores after our contact with them.”

Wizz is a Tinder-like app aimed at teenagers (ages 13 and up) owned by Voodoo, a French mobile video game developer.

Voodoo presents Wizz as a safe space for teenagers. The Wizz website has a question and answer section called “Is Wizz safe?” ”, in which the company explains how it prevents fake profiles and offensive content.

Nonetheless, Wizz was mentioned in a recent report by the Network Contagion Research Institute (NCRI) as one of the main platforms used by cybercriminals in a new wave of financial sextortion attacks targeting children and adolescents in Australia, Canada and in the United States.

Read more about the NCRI report: The Nigerian “Yahoo Boys” behind the wave of sextortion on social media in the United States

Specifically, the NCRI report states that Wizz is the third most used app for sextortion after Instagram and Snapchat.

He also said the dating app was where sextortion schemes were growing the fastest.

“In the Google Play Store and App Store, dozens of minors have reported being forced to produce self-generated child sexual exploitation material (SG-CSEM) and blackmailed on Wizz – alongside d “other child safety concerns, including a high frequency of complaints that the app serves pornographic ads to minors,” NCRI researchers observed.

Wizz works with Apple and Google

On its Instagram account, Wizz said the app was “taking a break from the app stores due to a technical issue” and started using the hashtag #freewizz.

Talk to Information securityA spokesperson for Wizz owner Voodoo said: “Apple and Google are seeking more information about our app, and we are working closely with their teams to clarify our platform’s extended guarantees for users. We hope to resolve this issue soon.”

Apple and Google have confirmed that they are collaborating with Wizz.

Asked about the NCRI report, the spokesperson added that the company has implemented strict security controls to prevent abusive or illegal behavior on its platform.

“We have zero tolerance for scams and inappropriate behavior of any kind on the platform, and we are constantly innovating to ensure Wizz leads the industry in user safety. We have developed a comprehensive security ecosystem, where all written and visual content is moderated, age verification is required, and situations reported by users are immediately addressed.

Wizz CTO refutes claims in NCRI report

On January 1, Gautier Gédoux, co-founder and CTO of Wizz, published a post on the Medium platform to respond to some of the assertions made in the NCRI report.

“We are not aware of any successful extortion attempts when communicating on the Wizz app,” Gédoux began.

Regarding the NCRI’s claim that young Wizz users were forced to produce self-generated child sexual exploitation material and were blackmailed, Gédoux noted that the associated footnote link The statement directing to the Google Play Store entry showed “no allegations of blackmail made in the comments.” »

“On the Apple Store reviews, there are two allegations of blackmail, but again, these situations occurred when the reviewer migrated to another messaging platform like Snapchat or Instagram,” he added.

Gédoux also rejected the surveys cited by the NCRI for not using an audience representative of Wizz users.

“Reddit polls are subject to self-selection bias, meaning only those who choose to participate will have their opinions reflected,” he said.

The Wizz CTO also insisted that the app was proactive in detecting and removing potential scam attempts.

He said the app bans around 4,000 users daily, representing almost 2% of all individuals attempting to access the platform. He added that Wizz is one of the few apps using Apple Device Check SDK technology.

Gédoux also explained how the app tries to combat users who send pornographic ads.

“Advertising on Wizz is done through AppLovin Max and Unity, the main players used by almost all mobile applications in the sector. On these ad networks, any illegal, hateful, violent, sexual, political or otherwise inappropriate advertisements may not be published in Wizz.

“In the past, Wizz has had some issues with suggestive images from these networks, but not with pornography. In addition to the above measures, Wizz has recently implemented a secondary level of moderation whereby any inappropriate advertising that is not properly flagged and blocked by these providers goes through secondary monitoring through our service provider GeoEdge.

At the time of writing, Wizz is still not available on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.

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