Online Dating Apps Face Scrutiny About Underage Users, Sex Offenders

Trump Impeachment

ASSOCIATED PRESS

For millions of users, online dating services like Tinder and Grindr offer the hope of meeting new people, exploring their compatibility, making a date, and then … who knows?

But like just about everything good on the internet, those services can have a dark side, and the head of a House subcommittee is looking for answers on how some of the most popular dating apps police their listings to ensure that users are at least 18 years of age and how they fight to keep registered sex offenders off of their sites.

“According to recent reports, numerous dating apps fail to effectively screen out underage users, creating dangerous and inappropriate situations,” Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) wrote in a letter to executives at four companies behind leading dating apps. “This problem is exacerbated by policies that permit, and in some cases encourage, underage users to falsely claim that they are 18 years old in order to gain access to these apps.”

Krishnamoorthi, who chairs the House oversight Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy, announced the launch of his investigation Thursday, when he sent letters asking for details about how the dating sites verify ages and police for sex offenders. Krishnamoorthi is requesting responses by Feb. 13.

He highlighted concerns over reports that some dating apps appear to permit sex offenders to use the free version of their service, but screen them out from the premium version.

“Protection from sexual predators should not be a luxury confined to paying customers,” he wrote in the letters.

Those missives went out to the Match Group, which operates Tinder, OK Cupid and other services, as well as The Meet Group, Grindr and Bumble.

“We don’t want minors and bad actors on our apps, and we use every tool possible to keep them off,” a spokesperson for the Match Group said in an emailed statement.

“But, this is a broader internet problem and everyone needs to do their part, which is why we implore third-party App Stores like Apple and Google who know exactly who is using these products to stop distributing them to minors and registered sex offenders,” the company said. “Furthermore, the registered sex offender database needs to be updated so that a perpetrator’s digital footprint can be tracked and blocked by our industry and all social media companies — particularly the ones that freely allow underage users on their platforms.”

“The safety and security of our users is our top priority at Bumble,” a spokesman for Bumble wrote in an email. “We look forward to responding to the committee’s letter and engaging with them on this important issue.”

A spokesman for Grindr said that the service is working actively to address issues around online safety, noting that it recently launched a reporting tool to identify offending accounts and, when appropriate, to coordinate with law enforcement.

“Any illegal use of our app – including by those who are underage – is deeply troubling to us, as well as a clear violation of our terms of service,” the spokesman said.

The Meet Group did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Krishnamoorthi is requesting a lengthy list of materials from the dating services, including data on their user bases, policies and procedures in place to verify users’ ages and screen out sex offenders, and their data-collection practices. He is also requesting they turn over all consumer complaints and related documentation involving allegations of underage users, statutory rape and sexual assault.

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Trump Impeachment

Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., at a House Intelligence Committee impeachment inquiry hearing on … [ ] Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019. (Samuel Corum/Pool via AP)

ASSOCIATED PRESS

For millions of users, online dating services like Tinder and Grindr offer the hope of meeting new people, exploring their compatibility, making a date, and then … who knows?

But like just about everything good on the internet, those services can have a dark side, and the head of a House subcommittee is looking for answers on how some of the most popular dating apps police their listings to ensure that users are at least 18 years of age and how they fight to keep registered sex offenders off of their sites.

“According to recent reports, numerous dating apps fail to effectively screen out underage users, creating dangerous and inappropriate situations,” Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) wrote in a letter to executives at four companies behind leading dating apps. “This problem is exacerbated by policies that permit, and in some cases encourage, underage users to falsely claim that they are 18 years old in order to gain access to these apps.”

Krishnamoorthi, who chairs the House oversight Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy, announced the launch of his investigation Thursday, when he sent letters asking for details about how the dating sites verify ages and police for sex offenders. Krishnamoorthi is requesting responses by Feb. 13.

He highlighted concerns over reports that some dating apps appear to permit sex offenders to use the free version of their service, but screen them out from the premium version.

“Protection from sexual predators should not be a luxury confined to paying customers,” he wrote in the letters.

Those missives went out to the Match Group, which operates Tinder, OK Cupid and other services, as well as The Meet Group, Grindr and Bumble.

“We don’t want minors and bad actors on our apps, and we use every tool possible to keep them off,” a spokesperson for the Match Group said in an emailed statement.

“But, this is a broader internet problem and everyone needs to do their part, which is why we implore third-party App Stores like Apple and Google who know exactly who is using these products to stop distributing them to minors and registered sex offenders,” the company said. “Furthermore, the registered sex offender database needs to be updated so that a perpetrator’s digital footprint can be tracked and blocked by our industry and all social media companies — particularly the ones that freely allow underage users on their platforms.”

“The safety and security of our users is our top priority at Bumble,” a spokesman for Bumble wrote in an email. “We look forward to responding to the committee’s letter and engaging with them on this important issue.”

A spokesman for Grindr said that the service is working actively to address issues around online safety, noting that it recently launched a reporting tool to identify offending accounts and, when appropriate, to coordinate with law enforcement.

“Any illegal use of our app – including by those who are underage – is deeply troubling to us, as well as a clear violation of our terms of service,” the spokesman said.

The Meet Group did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Krishnamoorthi is requesting a lengthy list of materials from the dating services, including data on their user bases, policies and procedures in place to verify users’ ages and screen out sex offenders, and their data-collection practices. He is also requesting they turn over all consumer complaints and related documentation involving allegations of underage users, statutory rape and sexual assault.

 

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