Text 'compliments' part of app marketing plan, not sex trafficking

App 'In Real Life' promotes teen socializing

By Mike Holfeld - Investigative Reporter

The buzz about the sex trafficking network targeting teens with the use of complimentary texts
has the owners of a new “Invite” app called IRL or  “In Real Life,” on the offensive.

News 6 viewers responded to News 6's Facebook inquiry about the text compliments, with many saying they had received several of the texts and deleted them all. 

A spokesperson for IRL said there is nothing sinister about the texts because the company’s software limits communications between, “People who know each other and have each other’s phone number.”

In an email to News 6 this week, an IRL spokesperson wrote, “The only way anyone would receive a text message is if someone who has their contact info sent them an invite to a plan, added them as a friend or complimented them. We are following the paradigm set by the TBH app that was acquired by Facebook.”

The company spokesperson said IRL debuted in February but declined to share current “usage numbers.” 

According to the company, the app was designed for a “younger audience” but any person who downloads the free app can “make plans and send compliments.”

As to the rumors of sex trafficking, the company said it had developed information that it’s a way for some accounts on Twitter to gain a following.

“It has been a trend for years on Twitter,” according to the spokesperson.

Danny Jenkins, CEO of Threatlocker.com, a security software company in Orlando, said he considers both the texts and the links “a scam.”

“Even though they are not stealing your data, they are using your data for a fake compliment to get you to download the app, which allows them to send you more junk," Jenkins said.

Jenkins said responding to text messages like this is a bad idea, many times leading to “real losses and real scams.”

The company spokesperson said IRL is very protective of personal data and denies any unethical or illegal intent.

“IRL is based in San Francisco, CA and is venture funded by Floodgate (an early investor in Twitter and Lyft), and Founders Fund (investor in Airbnb and Facebook), he said. “Our founders are tech veterans who have been at the very start of companies like PayPal and WordPress. One of our co-founders was the founding CTO of a company called Ironport that focused on protecting email privacy and security online and was acquired by Cisco for over $800M. “
 

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