Flawed Facebook app lets children chat with strangers

Facebook acknowledged a design error in Messenger Kids that revealed thousands of children in group chats with unauthorized users.

According to the Verge report, design flaws "allowed users to avoid this protection through the group chat system, thus allowing children to participate in group conversations with strangers who do not agree."

The social networking platform introduced Messenger Kids in 2017 targeting children under the age of 13. Despite the experts' call for withdrawal, Facebook said that the "technical error" was behind the problem in group chat. Facebook sent a notice to parents saying that it disabled group chats in cases where errors were detected.

"Recently, some parents of Messenger Kids users told us about a technical error we found affecting a small number of group conversations," a Facebook spokesman was quoted as saying.

"We've stopped the affected chats and provided parents with additional resources for Messenger Kids and online safety."
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Messenger Kids is a chat and video messaging application designed for kids to connect with trusted family, friends, or parents.

Parents set up and manage their Messenger Kids accounts through their Facebook account.

It is not clear how long the chat feature lasted in the app.

Last year, more than 100 child health experts wrote an open letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg urging him to stop implementing Messenger Kids.

"While there is growing concern about how the use of social media affects the well-being of adolescents, it is not particularly important to encourage pre-school children to start using the Facebook product," the authors wrote.

Faced with the volatility of lawmakers and experts, Facebook decided in February this year not to create a new application called "LOL" to allow children to share and spread humor. Instead, the social networking giant said it would focus more on Messenger Kids.

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