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It’s never cute to find out that someone lied about their age on their dating app. But dating apps that don’t have strict regulations or policies about users’ age are contributing to a far graver issue: child trafficking, statutory rape, and predation.
The report cites at least 60 cases of sexual abuse of children facilitated by online dating and at least 30 cases of rape of a minor who managed to skirt the question of age on these apps.
U.K. Secretary of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Jeremy Wright is now putting the spotlight on these dating apps and demanding their methods of verifying the age of their users.
“This is truly shocking and yet more evidence that online tech firms must do more to protect children. I will be writing to these companies asking what measures they have in place to keep children safe from harm, including verifying their age,” Wright said to CNET on Monday. “If I’m not satisfied with their response, I reserve the right to take further action.”
Both Grindr and Tinder told CNET, in separate statements, that they were disturbed by the news and don’t encourage such behavior.
“Any account of sexual abuse or other illegal behavior is troubling to us as well as a clear violation of our terms of service,” a Grindr spokesperson told CNET.
“We don’t want minors on Tinder. Period,” a Tinder spokesperson told CNET.
The issue is part of a larger conversation about the responsibility of dating apps to intervene in such situations. Grindr, in particular, has come under scrutiny for its members using the platform for criminal acts.
The number of people using dating apps has tripled in America in the past decade.
In a statement to the Daily Dot, Grindr said it was working to improve its age verification methods.
“Grindr is committed to creating a safe and secure environment to help our community connect and thrive, and any account of sexual abuse or other illegal behavior is troubling to us as well as a clear violation of our terms of service … In addition, our team is constantly working to improve our digital and human screening tools to prevent and remove improper underage use of our app.”
Tinder also said in a statement to the Daily Dot that they were working on addressing age restriction evasion on the app.
“We utilize a network of industry-leading automated and manual moderation and review tools, systems and processes – and spend millions of dollars annually – to prevent, monitor and remove minors and other inappropriate behavior from our app … we are consistently evaluating and refining our processes to prevent underage access, and will always work with law enforcement, where possible, to protect our users as well. We don’t want minors on Tinder.”
This article has been updated.
Samira Sadeque is a New York-based journalist reporting on immigration, sexual violence, and mental health, and will sometimes write about memes and dinosaurs too. Her work also appears in Reuters, NPR, and NBC among other publications. She graduated from Columbia Journalism School, and her work has been nominated for SAJA awards. Follow: @Samideque