The dating app Tinder has faced increasing scrutiny over abusive interactions on the service. In November 2019, an Auckland man was convicted of murdering British woman Grace Millane after they met on Tinder. Incidents such as these have brought attention to the potential for serious violence facilitated by dating apps.
The US version of the app added a panic button which alerts law enforcement to provide emergency assistance, in partnership with the safety app Noonlight. There is also a photo verification feature that will allow users to verify images they upload to their profiles, in an effort to prevent catfishing.
“Does This Bother You?” is another new feature, which automatically detects offensive messages in the app’s instant messaging service, and asks the user whether they’d like to report it. Finally, a Safety Center will give users a more visible space to see resources and tools that can keep them safe on the app.
These features are an improvement, but they won’t end the harassment of women via the platform.
My PhD research investigated experiences that make women feel unsafe on Tinder. It showed the app’s previous attempts to curb harassment have been inadequate.
In 2017, Tinder launched a feature to allow users to send animated messages, called “Reactions”, in reply to unacceptable messages they received. The negative images, which only women could send, included an eye roll and throwing a drink in someone’s face. Tinder claimed Reactions would give users a fun and easy way to “call out” the “douchey” behaviour of men.
The main critique of Reactions is that it puts the onus on women, rather than the app itself, to police the abusive behaviour of men. The effect was to distance Tinder from its users’ behaviour, rather than engage meaningfully with it.