Child Safety Watchdog in Canada Warns Parents About Wizz, a Teen-Oriented App Similar to Tinder

The Canadian Centre for Child Protection, which acts as the watchdog for child exploitation activities, published an advisory for parents on Wizz, a Tinder-style app targeting teenagers. The warning came after Wizz resurfaced in the Apple app store, and urged parents to consider removing Wizz from their children’s devices. C3P, which is the organization designated by the government of Canada to gather information regarding instances of child sexual exploitation, noted that it received over 180 reports concerning Wizz since 2021, with reports increasing tenfold in 2023 compared to the previous year. Those reports indicated that 93% of victims affected by the sextortion were male, and the majority were between the ages of 15 and 17, according to the release.

In response to the issuing, a representative for Wizz said, “Given that Wizz is creating online communities for a teenage audience, we know we have a higher standard of duty and care for our users. This is why we built Wizz from the ground up to be secure; and every day we strive to enhance the safety of our users.”

Days after Wizz was restored to the Apple App Store, issued a warning to parents about the app. As of Wednesday morning, the app was still unavailable on Google’s app store, and both Google and Apple did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Wizz is an app that allows users to browse through profiles displaying users’ photos, first names, ages, states, and zodiac signs. Wizz markets itself as a “safe space” for meeting new friends, allowing users as young as 13 to connect with similarly aged users.

The National Center on Sexual Exploitation had removed Wizz from both Google and Apple app stores in January after reaching out to the companies with concerns related to sextortion and other online safety issues. They highlighted reports associated with Wizz that were made to C3P. In light of this, Wizz said that it fast-tracked its product roadmap to prioritize changes related to child safety, implementing those changes before Apple restored the app to the store.

In an interview just before the app was reestablished on the Apple app store, Wizz CEO Aymeric Roffé said that he welcomed the temporary removals and review process. The Wizz uses a third party, Yoti, for age verification, and the company claims to employ a 20-person team to review flagged content. According to NBC News, since early 2023, there have been more than 100 reports of alleged sextortion involving Wizz.

These reports stated that initial connections were made on Wizz, before minors were redirected to different platforms. Besides the sextortion issues, Wizz has also been criticized for allegedly exposing minors to mature content and inappropriate ads, which Wizz has been working to rectify.

Overall, safety advocates have highlighted concerns with Wizz’s moderation and verification procedures. They claim the app allows women in their 20s to create profiles posing as 16-year-old boys, enabling them to interact with minors on the app. In response, Wizz said that its multiple safeguards work together to provide backup layers of security and that they are continually striving to enhance the app and introduce additional security features.

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