Online dating app companies agree to report safety threats to police and end accounts of known dangerous users

Kimberley Caines
The Nightly
Online dating app companies have agreed to report safety threats to police and end the accounts of known dangerous users under a Federal Government crackdown to protect Australians.
Online dating app companies have agreed to report safety threats to police and end the accounts of known dangerous users under a Federal Government crackdown to protect Australians. Credit: The West

Online dating app companies have agreed to report safety threats to police and end the accounts of known dangerous users under a Federal Government crackdown to protect Australians.

About 75 per cent of popular apps including Hinge, Tinder, Bumble and eharmony have adopted a new industry code, which came into effect on Friday, to add additional safety features to the platforms.

The platforms will also publish regular transparency reports that show the number of Australian accounts terminated and a compliance rating system that tracks whether the apps are meeting their commitments.

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The apps will increase engagement with police by proactively escalating complaints when there is an “imminent threat” to safety.

Communications Minister Michelle Rowland said three in four people who used online dating apps experienced some form of technology-facilitated abuse.

“The majority of these victims are women. The Albanese Government was determined to act on this alarming rate,” Ms Rowland said.

“We determined, (Social Services Minister Amanda) Rishworth and I, that we would request the industry to formulate a code of practice for how they would make their devices (and) their apps safer.

“This really is world-leading for many of these companies. It was the first time they had actually interacted with governments and regulators at this level.”

The code will become operational over the next three months and be enforced by a three-member committee that can issue formal warnings and suspend or remove participants.

After nine months, the eSafety Commissioner will assess the effectiveness of the code and provide advice to the Government on its adequacy — including whether further regulatory action is required.

Ms Rishworth said sexual violence on dating apps included sexual harassment, threatening and abusive language, and being sent unsolicited sexual images.

“We know that dating apps are a very popular way for people to meet... but we also know that it is a place where harm can be perpetrated, particularly gendered-based violence,” Ms Rishworth said.

“The requirements under this code for dating apps to monitor and be able to intervene and systems that intervene is a very important part of the prevention of behaviour escalating.”

The Commonwealth’s crackdown has been criticised for falling short of what some victims’ families have called for, including making it legislation to report safety threats to police and not just an option for online dating app companies.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the code of conduct was the first step to see if it worked.

“This is an issue that governments are grappling with, parents are grappling with and our whole society is grappling with as well, of how to get this right, how to make sure we benefit from what new technology brings without posing risks to our safety online,” Mr Albanese said on Friday.

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