Instagram app Like Patrol and kids’ social media app PopJam have both come under fire for being unhealthy and invasive. PopJam, an Instagram-like app from UK-based company Mind Candy, was banned for encouraging kids to get likes and followers in order to “level up.” Like Patrol was removed from the App Store for tracking users’ likes in a way many found stalkerish. Both apps show the dark side of social media, and are especially noticeable as apps like Instagram put effort into decreasing online pressure.
PopJam is designed for seven- to 12-year-olds. Its advertisement advises kids to “get likes and followers to level up through the app,” which the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruled could have a “ “detrimental effect on youngsters’ mental health and self-esteem.” The ASA added the ad was irresponsible and likely to cause harm.
The specific television ad that marketed PopJam aired on CITV (Children’s Independent Television) in July, with the words likes and followers in large text, followed by a number rising from 96 to 10,000, with a voiceover stating: “Get likes and followers to level up.” The ASA, according to a BBC report, ruled the ad “explicitly encouraged children to seek likes and followers in order to progress through the app.”
SuperAwesomeTrading, the kidtech infrastructure behind PopJam that combines compliance and functionality, disagreed. The platform argued the app, which is advertised on Instagram, encouraged “positive digital engagement” and provided other ways to progress through it, like drawings, quizzes, and creative challenges. SuperAwesomeTrading’s take: PopJam was “designed to ensure children’s privacy, safety and well being.”
After the ruling, SuperAwesomeTrading acknowledged the potential effects of the advertisement. “We considered that the suggestion that the acquisition of likes and followers was the only means of progression was likely to give children the impression that popularity on social media was something that should be pursued because it was desirable in its own right,” read their official statement, according to the BBC.
With growing numbers of teens feeling insecure because of social media, more companies and organizations are becoming aware of prevention. However, it’s not just kids falling to the temptations of social media.
Apple recently removed the app Like Patrol from the App Store, just a month after Instagram tried to force the app to shut down, accusing it of scraping people’s data without their consent.
Like Patrol, which has been called a “stalker app,” lets users monitor others’ activity on Instagram. For a small fee, the app will notify users who their friends had recently followed, and what kind of posts they liked.
Instagram used to include a feature, the Following Tab, to let users see what others were doing on the platform, but removed it last month after acknowledging some users weren’t aware their activities were being tracked.
Sergio Luis Quintero, Like Patrol’s founder, calls his app the Following Tab “on steroids.” He insists the app only uses public data and told the BBC the plans to challenge Apple’s ban.
Among insights offered by the app are ways to expose: “lustful behaviour” by tracking all the times a user had liked a “model’s” photo, identify “flirtatious behavior” by listing the people a user interacts with most with via comments and likes, and tracks popularity by showing which user “liked” posts most frequently.
It might seem like this ability would only be popular among teens, but that’s not the case. One App Store reviewer praised the app, calling it a “great tool to keep track of my teenagers… without them thinking I’m being nosy.”
Most people, though, think Like Patrol is just plain creepy. Security company Malwarebytes claimed it was a tool to help people stalk other users, and Instagram itself said the software had violated its policies.
Quintero calls the condemnation hypocrisy, according to the BBC. “Like Patrol does not collect data from Instagram users, it provides the users with a tool to rearrange information that is already available to them.”
After the removal, new users can’t download the app, but if already loaded on cell phones, it’s still functional. And with its relative popularity, it’s likely similar apps are soon to come.”Our data and privacy is valuable,” Lisa Forte, founder of Red Goat Cyber Security, told the BBC. “Apps like this one can be hugely intrusive. Be very cautious with what apps you decide to download and always keep your phone updated.”