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Periscope: a mobile app to use with caution

Monday 23 May 2016, by SIGNIS

Brussels, May, 23rd 2016 (I.V.). Periscope is the newest trendy mobile app. Like every social network, it was designed to bring people closer and create bonds. However, we already observe a lot of wayward trends, often dangerous.

Periscope was launched in 2015, after being bought by Twitter. This mobile app allows users to live-stream what they are seeing and living through their video camera onto their smartphones. The videos are streamed live and can be seen for the following 24 hours.

The app has been used to broadcast tragedies (live-streaming of the Paris attacks, showing the difficult journey of a refugee across the Mediterranean…) but also more happy events, such as festivals, meetings or conferences.

However, the app has already shown its flaws: in France for instance, a famous football player insulted his team and coach, while answering questions from a user. Another example, is the fact that some young students have been using Periscope while in class, asking the audience to challenge them, like talking back to the teacher or taking their shirts off… Much worse, a young woman recently filmed her suicide. Finally, many people (especially women) have complained about being sexually harassed on the app.

Shortly after its launching, Justin Esgar, developer of the app Goodnight, declared to the Daily Mail Online that because Periscope “allows users to share even more of their intimate lives with each other than ever before”, there are dangers that users have to consider before accessing it, including the risk of children being “groomed” online.

Despite the fact that the app’s community guidelines prohibit “pornographic or overtly sexual content” as well as “explicitly graphic content or media that is intended to incite violent, illegal or dangerous activities” and that an entire team is dedicated to verify the contents, it is very difficult to check everything, because everything is streamed live.

Another issue worth mentioning is that it is difficult to hide the geo-localization: it is very easy to find out the exact place where the video comes from. If this is highly useful for public events, in order to reach many people, it can put children and other vulnerable people in danger when they are using the app.

Finally, there is the issue of copyright infringement, when users are using Periscope to live-stream TV shows (such as recently with the latest Game of Thrones episode).

In conclusion, while Periscope can be very useful in order to inform people and to show them what is happening in other parts of the world, it has to be used cautiously, and young people need to be educated about the risks of a misuse of such an app.

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