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Facebook’s Messenger Kids app is built around a simple premise: children shouldn’t be able to talk to users who haven’t been approved by their parents. But a design flaw allowed users to sidestep that protection through the group chat system, allowing children to enter group chats with unapproved strangers. For the past week, Facebook has been quietly closing down those group chats and alerting users, but has not made any public statements disclosing the issue. The alert, which was obtained by The Verge. Facebook confirmed to The Verge that the message was authentic, and said the alert had been sent to thousands of users in recent days. “We recently notified some parents of Messenger Kids account users about a technical error that we detected affecting a small number of group chats,” a Facebook representative said. “We turned off the affected chats and provided parents with additional resources on Messenger Kids and online safety.” The bug arose from the way Messenger Kids’ unique permissions were applied in group chats. In a standard one-on-one chat, children can only initiate conversations with users who have been approved by the child’s parents. But those permissions became more complex when applied to a group chat because of the multiple users involved. Whoever launched the group could invite any user who was authorized to chat with them, even if that user wasn’t authorized to chat with the other children in the group. As a result, thousands of children were left in chats with unauthorized users, a violation of the core promise of Messenger Kids. Learn more by visiting OUR FORUM.

 

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