Interview: Why is A New Social Networking Site for Kids in the UK Worth Watching in the US?

As the online privacy debate swirls in the United States, one interesting area to watch is how, when, or even if, privacy tracking technologies successful abroad will migrate to the States.

As the online privacy debate swirls in the United States, one interesting area to watch is how, when, or even if, privacy tracking technologies successful abroad will migrate to the States.

And one specific case study to follow is that of Jabble, a social networking site for kids set to launch in the United Kingdom in May that is just the latest UK-based startup to rely on the red-hot British software firm Crisp Thinking to deliver its privacy technology.

We spoke with Jabble’s CEO Becca Morgan, to learn more about how exactly Crisp’s privacy technology works, why she thinks it will make Jabble stand out in a crowded field and why, exactly, she decided to stake the site’s reputation, not to mention success, on a six-year-old software company run by a 26-year old tech wizard who left school at 16 to begin building a software platform that would change the game on cyberbullies.

Social Times:  Tell me more about the Jabble social network and why you created it.

BM: Jabble is a simplified, child-focused social network.  Jabble offers all the features of other social networks: make friends, send messages, instant chat and games, but is aimed at 5 – 11 year olds. Our intentions in providing the site are ethical and responsible, aiming to create a safer online world in which children can communicate with each other. In addition to the usual social networking tools, we offer users protective facilities to block inappropriate behavior and flag this to parents and moderators.

Social Times:  Jabble is touting its partnership with Crisp Thinking’s privacy technology as a feature that separates it from social media sites.  How does Crisp make Jabble stand out?

BM: Crisp technology blocks inappropriate words in real time. However, it goes further than traditional message filters as it also analyzes the “intent” of dialogue between users as well as the actual words they are using. So, typical ways of getting around these filters, such as, adding letters, spaces or number to words are not possible.

Also, Jabble, as with many sites for young children, uses a white list system.  When using white list chat, users are only able to type words, which appear in this “allowed words” list.  Crisp has developed “adaptive” white list technology. This allows for multiple derived forms of words and suggests words as users type, highlighting words or phrases that would lead to it being blocked. This ensures safety yet maintains engagement levels.

The Crisp Platform also builds anonymous dynamic profiles of users based on all the comments and actions taken by a user within Jabble over time.  The platform uses these profiles and its analysis engine to understand language concepts and detects the intended meanings behind user-submitted content. The engine rates users against threat vectors like sexual predation and bullying.

The system can also react in real time by automatically warning or banning people who violate a site’s terms of service, or referring them to human moderators.  This has not been installed for Jabble but may be in the future.

Social Times: How else does Jabble stand out in an already crowded field of ‘kid-friendly’ social networks?

BM: We involve parents in this experience, providing them with tools to monitor and influence their child’s activity: communication logs, friend requests, flagging and blocking. We felt that most other social networks don’t offer parents a safer, more responsible option to help protect their children from the risks of communicating online.

One main difference between Jabble and sites like ScuttlePad and GiantHello is that we have taken the decision to not feature photographs for avatars or allow uploads. As well as removing the obvious risks of inappropriate postings, this allows children to interact without worrying about appearance and looks.