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There is nothing to like about an app called Likee

LIKEE or LIKE Video as it was before a rebranding earlier this year, is another video/ karaoke-based app out of Asia that is gaining in popularity. This app can be described as similar to TIKTOK but far worse.  The terms and conditions are so loose, as to be non-existent with the developers claiming ownership of all materials, shifting the onus for problems onto users, possessing almost zero content moderation, minimal parental controls, and no facility to make accounts private. It scores a definitely not!!! from Safe on Social for anyone regardless of age, due to its data mining and shifty terms and conditions, and that’s not even considering the other issues this app possesses. About LIKEE is owned by BIGO-technology, a firm based out of Singapore and data storage located both in Singapore and China. It was one of the most widely downloaded apps in 2019 and had an excess of 300 million users. To date, its main focus for promotion has been within India and Indonesia, but its popularity is gaining momentum further south.It has 29 staff. A number insufficient to effectively moderate such a behemoth. What it is and how it works LIKEE can be classified as a photo/video application. On establishing an account, a selection of individuals to follow are provided for you to select from. These users are suggested without their explicit consent, and there is no need for their approval to be granted to follow them. The same applies to the account your child possesses. They may now be randomly offered up as a potential follower to any individual within the app. Through its default settings, it is possible to like or comment and view the video content of anyone, follower, or not. Anyone may be private messaged without consent, notification, or knowledge. The app places considerable pressure – with repeated pop-ups to allow access to all contacts listed in the device being used.  Combined with this, it is possible to link via LIKEE to the several other social media platforms the most common being. Facebook Instagram Google OK WeChat Weibo By linking to these platforms, you automatically give the app permission to harvest all your personal data and contact from all your other social media accounts. There is also a hidden browser doorway within the app to Instagram, once a user decides to follow LIKEE on Instagram. This allows Instagram to be launched within the app, which can be searched in its entirety. There is a MASSIVE focus on building popularity and making in-app purchases (Parents beware). Experience points are gained for each video made, gaining more followers, or sending or receive monetised gifts. Accumulation of points allows access to different stickers and filters to use in making the clips. The length of the clip is also extended once a Level of 35 is achieved, allowing a user to make a video of up to 35 minutes long. It is not necessary for a user to make a video to earn money. By watching content, liking and sharing or giving purchased Diamonds or “bean” will gain funds. This feature offers an unfortunate incentive to spend excessive screen time using this application. With the app, individuals may purchase Diamonds with prices for these ranging from US $.99 for 39- to US$99.99 for 420. Purchase and use of these again increase popularity levels. These “beans” as they are called, are actually able to be cashed out into a bank account. The company does pay this money, though, for more substantial sums, there is a wait time of around a month. Its level driven approach is motivated to encourage individuals to spend more time on the app to access better functions, and reclaim cash, and spend on in-app purchases at considerable expense to BUY popularity. It’s age-gate, and corresponding age recommendations on apps The age recommendation the app sets is for 17+, and this is followed by the App store, yet on Google Apps 12+ is recommended. This is something of a wide disparity. The app itself makes a few specific distinctions about ages, and respective countries are singled out – US =15+. EU= 16+, and Russia = 12+, which is presumably where Google has taken its promoted age recommendation from. All other countries are dismissed “as per legal requirements.” The app will initially knock back an age under 12. And will then ask for confirmation of your birthdate. Renter a different date and access is granted with no further questions asked. It is easy to provide a false date of birth for a child. The content Entirely inappropriate for younger kids. Bad language, explicit song lyrics, explicit dancing. For all the apps protestations about Nudity, Fake or Indecent violent content – video clips available are full of all these things. Privacy settings There are none. All accounts are public, though it is possible to block messages from unwelcome individuals, they are still able to view your account even though blocked from interacting with it. To block unwanted messages or comments, click on the accounts profile picture, go to Settings, then to privacy and select the options you want disabled. “Who can message me?” can be limited to Everyone, Friends, or Disable, but considering the app allows anyone to follow an individual without their express permission – this is a ridiculous process to undertake, and even then, the account is not private. Parental controls These are present and meant to filter content, live feeds, and disable options such as private messages, but these are ineffectual, and mature content is still provided by the app – making it impossible to ensure only age-appropriate material is available. Hashtags are also searchable, and very inappropriate content under #nudes # twerks #pussy, etc. all produce predictable results , even though the app developers are very insistent in response that nudity and other such material is banned. Considering that there are 29 employees at LIKEE expected to moderate the content from over 100 million users, this is not really surprising and is one of the reasons this app should only be used by much older teens. The Problems Predators With the combination of no private accounts, that the push for popularity is enormous within this app, that much of the content is from very young girls ( obviously fudging birthdates) and the ability to follow and message anyone without direct consent - this is a feeding ground for online grooming and sexual predators. Parental reviews from both Google Apps and Common Sense Media all contain descriptions of pre-teens being asked for topless photos, or images of their genital areas, and requests for more provocative dancing with promises of monetary rewards in the form of beans. This is obviously disastrous for younger users who are less able to spot the more dangerous users of this site and enforces the fact that for this app, the age recommendations MUST be followed. Terms and conditions LIKEE’s terms and conditions are a disgrace and state that at any time, the app may alter its terms and conditions regarding anything within the app without warning. The onus is placed firmly on the user to regularly re-read. An impossible expectation for a young user, and risky for determining where your data will end up. It’s the user’s responsibility to source if the app is doing anything illegal. Placing such an expectation on a teen is farcical and unrealistic The user is liable to the app for any unauthorised use, which could include your accounts being hacked. The user, therefore, is liable for any losses or damage LIKEE incurs. A definition of unauthorised use is not provided. Copyright issues via TikTok Much of the content has been directly ripped off from TikTok users, placed on LIKEE, and then watermarked by the developers to claim ownership. There are numerous complaints from users of the app. Location settings This is another disaster, reminiscent of Snapchat’s live snap map. Provision of the user’s location is given as a default. The company views this as a positive, actually upgrading this feature deliberately. If not turned off within the app, a user’s location is pinpointed, as other LIKEE users nearby are highlighted. Combined with the presence of numerous predators, as a parent, this should be very unsettling. Instructions to turn off this are within the app. Tap the profile image in the top left corner, go to settings and privacy, and select the option to hide location in Profile. Difficulty in getting a response when reporting unless publicly posting a negative review on Google apps Many reviews cite the lack of response from the moderators when any issue arises. It is in no way clear within the app where complaints are supposed to made to.The most frequently suggested email address is feedback@likee.video, but don’t expect a quick resolution. For an app with over 100 million users, there is only 29 staff in total- so the moderation and response to comments sent directly is poor. Parking a complaint on a publicly viewable forum seems to hurry them into action though, and this is what Safe on Social would suggest should any issues arise. Your wait time will be significantly reduced. The app is very, very concerned about receiving positive reviews. In the above post, it asks for more stars for its performance. There is no reference to concerns or prohibition of online bullying, sextortion, child exploitation, et al. It only references any cybercrime under the broad term illegal activities, shown below. In no part of any of its terms or conditions, is there a concern of reference to any typical social media platform. This suggests strongly that it does not have the moderation team in place or the policy to address any concerns of this nature – and this in itself should be enough to bin the app immediately. All content created is owned by LIKEE. Once a user has created and uploaded a video, it is out of their control and ownership. Content cannot be saved to an individual’s device. The company may sell, use, distribute, store, or do anything it likes with your material in perpetuity. Content is watermarked with LIKEES branding. The app has created what it calls a Talent Creator Union. It claims to wish to promote healthy competition amongst its video creators to, therefore, get better videos. The blurb show below implies that this is for the benefit of the users, but when you consider the company owns all this content – this is a cynical pitch to use these better videos to on sell to whomever it wants. Data storage in China It must be noted that affiliated companies are China-based as well as Singapore. Much as with TikTok – there is a vast difference between the West and the East with the collection of personal data and storage. Given the repeated pressure from the app to link to all contacts and other social media platforms, this should be a serious concern, especially with the in-app purchase feature requiring the provision of a credit card. Furthermore, the only avenues for legal redress over any matter with this app is available in Singapore, and through Singaporean laws and legal channels. This is relatively impossible for individuals in foreign countries with limited access to an Asian legal system. Closing an account There is no other option to delete an account. You must e-mail the company and wait for a response. The address to do so is feedback@likee.video. Or given the slowness of response time, here are all the e-mail addresses locatable for the company, should you need them. Summary Not safe for anyone under 16, and its extensive data mining, lack of private accounts, ownership of all material produced, and Chinese storage of data in perpetuity make it a risky choice for a user of any age. In-app purchases to fund popularity is disastrous for vulnerable girls in particular, and the app has a heavy focus on this. It cannot be considered safe to use, and should not be initially downloaded even to try – given the considerable difficulty involved in deleting the account.

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