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Wildly Popular App Kik Offers Teenagers, and Predators, Anonymity


The allegations are beyond chilling: two Virginia Tech freshmen charged with the premeditated kidnapping and killing of a 13-year-old girl who, authorities say, communicated with her murderer online.

But the way they chatted — on a wildly popular messaging app called Kik — has increasingly become a source of concern for law enforcement.

The death of Nicole Madison Lovell, a liver transplant and cancer survivor from Blacksburg, Va., has put Kik — widely used by American teenagers but not as well known to adults as Snapchat or Instagram — in the spotlight at a time when law enforcement officials say it has been linked to a growing number of abuse cases. Neighbors say that the day before she died, Nicole showed them Kik messages she had exchanged with an 18-year-old man she was to meet that night.

Kik is cooperating in the investigation. Its officials say they responded to “multiple emergency requests” from the F.B.I. for information that helped lead to the arrests of the students, David Eisenhauer, 18, and Natalie Marie Keepers, 19, both aspiring engineers from Maryland. And experts in Internet crime caution that the app is just one of many digital platforms abused by all manner of criminals, from small-time drug dealers to terrorists.

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