As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to restrict our movements and activities, young generations are turning to their smartphones to make connections with like-minded people. This means using apps like France’s Yubo, which brings users together based on shared interests and communities, to hang out one-on-one or in livestreams of up to 10 friends.But when it comes to meetings with new people, in the real world or online, personal safety and security will always be an issue. Any social media platformwhich seeks to enable these kind of encounter has a responsibility and duty of care towards its users – not just to protect, but to educate them about the potential pitfalls of online meet-ups. Fortunately, safety on the Yubo app is priority no. 1.
An app that places the emphasis on real connections
Social networking apps are more popular than ever among younger generations, as the Covid-19 pandemic has forced us all indoors and shut down traditional socializing venues, from movie theatres to shopping malls. But most social networks don’t provide an accurate simulacrum of real world friendship and communal activities. Nor do they even try to, instead focusing on a self-centred race towards popularity and “likes”. Real interactions are frequently lost in the whirlwind of algorithms and performance indicators which make up modern day social media.
Yubo’s creators aimed to rectify this by starting a platform where the emphasis is on authenticity and genuine connection, rather than competition. This haven of no-strings-attached online socializing allows cooped-up Gen Z’ers to have fun and talk to friends with similar hobbies and passions from around the world, taking part in livestreams, chatting, playing games… or even doing nothing, which is becoming something of a lost art these days.
The response has been huge, and Yubo now has over 60 million users worldwide, including 12 million in the US – its largest market – alone. The app’s audience – 75% of whom are aged between 16 and 21 years old – have turned to the online socializing platform to forge real bonds and relationships which will hopefully endure once the pandemic subsides. But in a perilous online landscape marred by cyberbullying and worse, how does the app ensure these activities take place in a safe, welcoming environment?
Yubo’s commitment to safety
Yubo’s stated mission is to empower youth to discover and belong. It takes a proactive approach in this respect, offering users, parents and carers a wide range of resources and advice on the benefits and drawbacks of online meetings in its dedicated Safety Hub. Safety advice and external links available on the Yubo website centrearound specific topics like bullying, inappropriate language, hate speech and peer pressure.
In addition, all users have to review the Yubo community guidelines upon signing up, and have access to detailed safety guides including overviews of all the tools and safeguards which work to keep the community and its members safe. Yubo has also established partnerships with several child safety associations and industry specialists, and organisations as diverse as Interpol and National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NcMEC), taking their expert advice under consideration in order to make the platform as safe and inclusive as possible.
How Yubo’s tech keeps its users safe
Of course, it’s not enough to simply ask your users to educate themselves. With user safety at the forefront of their thinking, Yubo has also implemented a range of industry-leadingsafety features on the platform, to ensure the app remains a safe and positive environment for all. Technology plays a large part in this process, and most of it has been custom-designed and built by Yubo engineers to verify the authenticity of its users before any meetings even take place.
Determining a user’s age is one of the most important aspects of ensuring safe encounters on the Yubo app. All new users are required to upload a picture of their face, which is then scanned by proprietary face and age recognition algorithms to check its authenticity. The system then checks for any mismatches between the age provided by each user upon registration, and the age they supply in conversations with other users or in their profile’s biography. This allows Yubo to sort its users into age-appropriate communities, furtherincreasing the chances of matching interestsand lasting connections among its members.
Yubo’s algorithms can also pick up on any inappropriate language or behaviour which doesn’t meet its strict community standards, and take action in real time. This includes all written and visual content in user biographies, comments, pictures and videos shared by users – as well as the 130,000 or so livestreams launched on an average day, which Yubo claim is a technical feat unique to their platform. The platform will also warn its users before they share potentially confidential information, like their phone number or current location, to avoid any unwanted contact.
In addition to these automated measures, users are able – and indeed are encouraged – to report inappropriate behaviour such as cyberbullying or threats at any time, across the entire app. All reports are processed and acted on by the app’s 24/7 moderation team. And if user safety is deemed to be at risk, Yubo quickly and proactively collaborates with local authorities, responding to all data requests within 24 hours.
All of these security measures work hand-in-hand to ensure that discussions between Yubo users are mutually respectful and safe. Getting to know new people and maintaining new friendships can be a minefield at the best of times, so it’s reassuring to know that these issues are being addressed by the app’s creators and moderators. Algorithms have been blamed for a lot of society’s woes in recent years – everything from reinforcinginsular “bubbles” to enabling addictive tendencies among young people. So it’s heartening to see that the same technology is being used by some companies like Yubo to further ensure the safety of the users – backed up with the advice of industry experts, and a healthy dose of common sense.