The popular online shopping app Depop that is mostly used among teens and millennials has become a hunting ground for online predators who send creepy inappropriate messages.
What is Depop?
Depop founded in 2011 is a mobile phone app where people can buy, sell and discover the most strange and unique piece of clothing. If you have never heard of Depop, it’s sort of like Instagram except that it’s an online social interface combined with a St Vincents De Paul shop (The Australian version of Op Shops).
Depop’s sole purpose is to share an online community that allows users to independently sell and buy new and used items. It is an exceptional platform that has contributed in the reduction of clothes wastage and for people to search for different styles of fashion.
Since Depop’s launch in 2011, the app has exploded in usage. Media outlet Business of Fashion has reported users have sold $500 million worth of merchandise, and the company raising over $100 million in funding. The company boasts 16 million registered users around the world and estimates 90 percent of them are under the age of 26.
The Darkside of Depop
However, recent investigations from the Business of Fashion have shown that customers and sellers of the app have been abused by online predators sending inappropriate commentary and requests about the seller’s physical appearance.
In interviews with nearly a dozen Depop users, BOF received numerous reports of women being overwhelmed with sexual messages. The targets include minors, who told BOF they had been asked for nude personal information, and to perform sexually suggestive activities like wearing clothes before users purchased them.
Users have blocked forms of harassment of their profile and the company has also banned accounts off the platform. Some users feel there’s been an inadequate course of action from Depop to tackle this significant issue. With only 219 employees working at Depop, it is definitely difficult to monitor millions of users globally.
Dominic Rose, Depop’s chief operating officer, told BOF:
“The company is aware of the issue, and that the start-up has a “zero-tolerance approach” for abusive behaviour and other forms of harassment. Depop is working to address the problem and is developing a tool that would enable the company “to detect abuse and harassment faster.”
One female Depop user by the name of Lily Garcia was interviewed by BOF about her story of being targeted by predators. Garcia, 25, an officer manager from Orange, County, California said,
“Inquiries that I thought were supposed to be about my items were instead about my feet, my body, or if I could wear the clothes a few more times before I sold it. Pretty soon, a lot of messages were just awkward, uncomfortable conversations.”
Another Depop user, 20 year old Emily Brougham, from London told BOF she receives messages with inappropriate content two to three times a week. Brougham believes she is a target for predators because she models in the clothing and lingerie that she sells. She says, “I could post my clothes flat, on a bed, but that doesn’t look as good.” Brougham is prompted to showcase herself wearing the items so she can secure a sell.
It is not the first time that the app has faced scrutiny having been reported as a platform to sell illegal substances and drug paraphernalia back in 2018.
Depop isn’t the only social media platform attracting predators. In February this year, the U.K.’s National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children reported that the popular social app TikTok which has a mass millennial and Gen Z user base had become a “hunting ground” for child predators.
A spokesperson interviewed by CNET said: “We know that a significant amount of children are being contacted via popular livestreaming apps, such as TikTok, by abusers.”
With Depop undergoing developments to tackle this alarming situation. Caution and action should always be taken seriously on the use of online social media services where severe measures of internet safety are such a concern.
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