The Australian government wants dating apps to develop a code of conduct that addresses user safety concerns.
Australia’s government said on Monday the online dating industry must improve safety standards or be forced to make changes through legislation, responding to research that found three in four Australian users are dating through the platforms. Have to face some kind of sexual violence.
Popular dating companies like Tinder, Bumble and Hinge have until June 30 to develop a voluntary code of conduct that addresses user safety concerns, Communications Minister Michelle Rolland said.
He said the code could include improving engagement with law enforcement, supporting at-risk users, improving security policies and practices, and providing greater transparency about harm.
But, Rowland said, if safety standards are not improved enough, the government will use regulation and legislation to force change.
“What we want to do in this area is not to stop innovation, but to balance the losses,” he told reporters.
The government is responding to Australian Institute of Criminology research published last year that found three in four users of dating apps or websites experienced some form of sexual violence through these platforms in the five years to 2021 .
“Online dating is actually the most popular way for Australians to meet new people and form new relationships,” Rowland said.
“The government is concerned about the rates of sexual harassment, abusive and threatening language, unwanted sexual images and violence provided by these platforms,” she said.
The Australian Information Industry Association, which represents the information and communications technology industry in Australia, but not the online dating sector, welcomed the government’s approach as “very measured”.
“This is how the government should regulate technology,” said Simon Bush, chief executive of the association. “Point out where there are problems, bring the industry together and push the industry to see if they can solve these issues before pulling the regulatory trigger.”
Match Group, which owns and operates popular dating services including Tinder, Hinge, Plenty of Fish and OK Cupid, said it would partner with Australia’s Queensland Police Service and the Australian umbrella group Women’s Services Network to tackle gender-based violence. Will continue to work with regulators and partners. And strengthen security across all platforms.
“Safety guides everything we do at Match Group and we share the Australian Government’s commitment to strengthening the safety of Australians,” Match Group said in a statement on Tuesday.
“This is an important conversation that should not be limited to any one industry, but rather expanded to address these systemic issues occurring everywhere from public roads to workplaces and social media platforms – targeting abusers and bad actors. Ensuring a holistic approach to crack down, the statement said.
Bumble said the dating service “stands with the Australian Government in our shared hope of ending gender-based violence.”
“Creating a safe and kind online environment for people to make connections is a core part of our mission,” Bumble said in its statement Tuesday.
“We know domestic and sexual violence is a huge problem not just in Australia, but around the world, and women, members of LGBQTIA+ communities and First Nations are most at risk. We stand by our commitment to trust and safety in our community, fostering a community rooted in kindness and respect while continuing to help educate our members about how to stay safe on and off our platform – so that Over time we can have a positive impact,” the statement said.
Cath Albury, an online dating researcher at Melbourne’s Swinburne University of Technology, said security improvements could include clearer information about how quickly a user can expect a response after reporting an unwanted or threatening contact.
“One of the things that dating app users are concerned about is that complaints go down to zero or there’s a response that feels automated or not personally responsive at a time when they’re quite in need,” Albury said. Are feeling unsafe or distressed.”