Culture

How Tinder Failed Victims Of Sexual Assault

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Tinder has been called out by victims of sexual assault for failing to act on complaints and kick predators off their platform.  

After a massive ABC investigation, the company has responded saying they’re going to up their safety standards and respond properly to sexual assault complaints from users.  

But Are These Promises TChange, Enough For The Victims?  

The Tinder investigation started at Triple j.

Every year the station surveys their listeners about a bunch of different parts of their lives and last year, they asked them about their experience on dating apps.  

Avani Dias: We saw that there was a massive split between men’s and women’s experiences. Men said their worst experiences were things like, somebody not being as good looking in person as they were on the app or, somebody being kind of rude or abusive within the app … which of course is difficult to face. But when we spoke to women bout their worst experiences, they’d experienced a whole range of things. At worst, things like being held hostage and facing sexual assault. So, we realised that this was a prominent problem.”  

That’s Avani Dias. She’s the host of Hack on Triple j and she worked on this investigation.  

Their research showed how Tinder was being used by perpetrators of sexual crimes to target victims and then basically evade the law.  

AD: We heard about some really harrowing experiences from people about really full-on sexual assaults – people not allowed to leave a date, and not able to escape, yeah just really concerning situations where it appeared that this was a real pattern of sexual assault and rape that was being facilitated by dating apps.” 

Hack even found that perpetrators of sexual assault were using Tinder’s features to evade investigation, like the ‘unmatch function.  

Basically, the function means that you can delete people you’ve matched with, and your conversation with them, if the situation fizzles out or sours a bit.  

AD: What we discovered through our investigation, is that sex offenders are now using that function to actually cover their tracks because it gets rid of their chat history completely. They have no way to access that data once it’s disappeared. And you know, Australian police are really concerned about this, because that data disappearing, means that they struggle to investigate these crimes as well. And sexual assault survivors have said they will often go to report someone to police or Tinder, and they have been unmatched by an offender, so they can’t actually do that. It actually stopped a lot of people who had reached out to us from going forward to police.” 

The ABC investigation found that Tinder was even failing to work with police to retrieve this conversation data. 

The people who reported sexual offences to Tinder felt totally let down. 

The company either totally failed to respond, or just sent a generic acknowledgement message.  

Ex-staff reported to the ABC that basically, the team is under resourced, and complaints of sexual assault were being buried.  

The story was a bit of a bombshell and the reaction to it online has been huge.  

So, What’s Been The Response From Tinder?  

Well Match Group, the multi-billion dollar dating app giant that owns Tinder, released a statement saying that they would now respond to every sexual assault complaint, and would refer survivors to counselling and support services.  

They also said, they would start working with police to figure out how they can best cooperate. 

The survivors that Avani has spoken to say that it’s a great first step, but it’s also a bit of a bare minimum responsibility.  

They also really want the company to change that ‘unmatch’ function, so chat data can be retrieved on every account. 

Avani told me that legislative changes could force companies like Tinder to cooperate more with sexual assault investigations.  

AD: After the investigation came out, I interviewed the Federal Communications Minister, Paul Fletcher, who said they are bringing in a new Online Safety Act  but he couldn’t tell us whether there’ll be any penalties for a company like Tinder if it doesn’t cooperate and, certainly police have inferred to us that they want some sort of action to ensure that these companies actually provide this evidence – considering the growing problem that we’re seeing on dating apps.” 

The Takeaway 

The ABC’s investigation into Tinder has revealed some really shocking failures and hopefully the company will stick to its promises to effectively deal with these issues in the future.