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December 24, 2012

Is Facebook Poke the New Sexting App?

Facebook’s recently launched video messaging app has raised concerns teens may use the app for ‘sexting’ — sending messages with sexual content.

Facebook Poke is a mobile app that enables its users to send photo or video messages that disappear seconds after being sent.

The app, which is one of the most popular free downloads on iTunes since its debut Dec. 21, is similar to Snapchat, an app widely used for sexting.

According to Facebook, Poke allows users “to share what you’re up to in a lightweight way.”

The app enables its users to send messages that “self destruct” after one, three, five or 10 seconds. Even though the video or photo message is permanently deleted in a matter of seconds, there is nothing to stop the recipient from taking a screenshot of the message.

Although the social network sends out an alert once a screen shot is taken, it cannot prevent the recipients from sharing that screen shot with others.

According to Social News Daily, unlike most Facebook data, Poke messages are not stored for long by the social network. The Pokes’ encryption keys are deleted two days after being accessed. Facebook also obliterates key backups after three months, ensuring the messages are permanently inaccessible.

Ordinarily, Facebook stores all data until a user deletes his or her account.

An Australian news site the Sun Herald, however, has raised the issue of teens using the app to send age-inappropriate photos and messages.

Psychologist and teacher Collett Smart told the Hearld Sun apps like Poke and Snapchat can be used to pressure teenaged girls into sending racy photos or videos to their boyfriends.

“Who actually wants to take photos of your holiday on the beach, or your school graduation or something like that and have them dissolve in 10 seconds,” Smart was quoted by the Herald Sun. “We’re not dumb, we know what this app will be used for.”

The powers that be at Facebook are not dumb either. They are well aware the app may be used for “personal” messages — that is why its built-in reporting tools are on hand to ensure users can report offensive images. Also, sharing content “of a sexual nature” breaches Facebook’s policies.

“If you ever see something you’re uncomfortable with, you can click the gear menu and report it,” Facebook said in a post.