All posts in “Tinder”

Dating apps face questions over age checks after report exposes child abuse

The UK government has said it could legislate to require age verification checks on users of dating apps, following an investigation into underage use of dating apps published by the Sunday Times yesterday.

The newspaper found more than 30 cases of child rape have been investigated by police related to use of dating apps including Grindr and Tinder since 2015. It reports that one 13-year-old boy with a profile on the Grindr app was raped or abused by at least 21 men. 

The Sunday Times also found 60 further instances of child sex offences related to the use of online dating services — including grooming, kidnapping and violent assault, according to the BBC, which covered the report.

The youngest victim is reported to have been just eight years old. The newspaper obtaining the data via freedom of information requests to UK police forces.

Responding to the Sunday Times’ investigation, a Tinder spokesperson told the BBC it uses automated and manual tools, and spends “millions of dollars annually”, to prevent and remove underage users and other inappropriate behaviour, saying it does not want minors on the platform.

Grindr also reacting to the report, providing the Times with a statement saying: “Any account of sexual abuse or other illegal behaviour is troubling to us as well as a clear violation of our terms of service. Our team is constantly working to improve our digital and human screening tools to prevent and remove improper underage use of our app.”

We’ve also reached out to the companies with additional questions.

The UK’s secretary of state for digital, media, culture and sport (DCMS), Jeremy Wright, dubbed the newspaper’s investigation “truly shocking”, describing it as further evidence that “online tech firms must do more to protect children”.

He also suggested the government could expand forthcoming age verification checks for accessing pornography to include dating apps — saying he would write to the dating app companies to ask “what measures they have in place to keep children safe from harm, including verifying their age”.

“If I’m not satisfied with their response, I reserve the right to take further action,” he added.

Age verification checks for viewing online porn are due to come into force in the UK in April, as part of the Digital Economy Act.

Those age checks, which are clearly not without controversy given the huge privacy considerations of creating a database of adult identities linked to porn viewing habits, have also been driven by concern about children’s exposure to graphic content online.

Last year the UK government committed to legislating on social media safety too, although it has yet to set out the detail of its policy plans. But a white paper is due imminently.

A parliamentary committee which reported last week urged the government to put a legal ‘duty of care’ on platforms to protect minors.

It also called for more robust systems for age verification. So it remains at least a possibility that some types of social media content could be age-gated in the country in future.

Last month the BBC reported on the death of a 14-year-old schoolgirl who killed herself in 2017 after being exposed to self-harm imagery on the platform.

Following the report, Instagram’s boss met with Wright and the UK’s health secretary, Matt Hancock, to discuss concerns about the impact of suicide-related content circulating on the platform.

After the meeting Instagram announced it would ban graphic images of self-harm last week.

Earlier the same week the company responded to the public outcry over the story by saying it would no longer allow suicide related content to be promoted via its recommendation algorithms or surfaced via hashtags.

Also last week, the government’s chief medical advisors called for a code of conduct for social media platforms to protect vulnerable users.

The medical experts also called for greater transparency from platform giants to support public interest-based research into the potential mental health impacts of their platforms.

The rise of the Tinder-themed wedding

In our Love App-tually series, Mashable shines a light into the foggy world of online dating. It is cuffing season after all.

The Tinder catchphrase “It’s a Match!” has always contained a semi-ironic nod to the decidedly old-school roots of matchmaking. But the phrase that launched a thousand hookups takes on an even schmaltzier meaning when an initial swipe right turns into marriage. 

Far from ashamed, couples who meet each other on dating apps are now paying a grateful — if tongue-in-cheek — homage to how it all began.

On Instagram, the hashtag #TinderWedding has more than 1,700 photos of happy couples and flowery nuptials. Tinder weddings, and even Tinder babies, are most definitely already A Thing.

The #TinderWedding-tagged photos don’t just reference the way people met, however. The hashtag refers to actual pieces of wedding decor and accessories — including photo signs, napkins, coasters, cake toppers, clothing, and oh so much more — that celebrate the mutual swipe right that began the couple’s relationship. 

In the past, the fact that the couple met on Tinder might be a circumstance they laughed off or brushed aside. But dating app dominance has turned those origin stories into a point of joyful pride, at least for some. And, through decor and other accessories, Tinder is playing a part in actual weddings and engagements, too. 

Screw your dating app stigma, the decorations seem to say. It’s 2019. And we’re getting married!

A near-constant among the Tinder-themed decor is a sense of cheek. The celebration often seems playfully subversive: “We swiped right” pokes fun at the earnest “she said yes!” engagement announcement refrain. “It’s a match!” signs serve as a tears-of-joy “thank you” to the couple’s digital yenta.

“When people are confronted with things that are foreign to them, they choose humor,” Skyler Wang, a UC Berkeley PhD student in sociology who studies dating apps, said. “That’s a very human response.” 

Perhaps it’s the novelty of these accessories that make them, well, funny. But they’re also helping couples normalize marriages brought about by dating apps — which is about 30 percent of marriages these days. Couples are kicking the anti-dating app taboo to the curb, often assisted with a life-size profile pic, and a pun.

Ingrid Garland had not given her colleague, Ross, much thought beyond the scope of the workplace. Nor did her thinking change significantly when she matched with Ross on Tinder. But Ross’s did.

At the end of a morning meeting one day, Ross came up to Ingrid and said, “Oh, and I like your profile.” 

Ingrid was confused. She remembers asking, “What profile?”

Ross clarified that he meant her Tinder profile. Ingrid remembers cringily responding, “Oh no, really?! I hope you swiped left!” (Even though she says she did like him at the time.) 

“No, right,” Ross said, downcast.

But that awkward conversation was enough to open the door. Shortly after, at Ingrid’s office goodbye party, she and Ross shared their first kiss; Tinder had let them signal that they liked each other. In August 2017, they got married. Now they’re expecting a child — a sibling for Ingrid’s 8-year-old daughter Katie, from a previous relationship.

Ingrid and Ross are expecting a new sibling for their 8-year-old daughter, Kate, in just a few weeks.

Ingrid and Ross are expecting a new sibling for their 8-year-old daughter, Kate, in just a few weeks.

Image: ingrid garland/Little Black Bow Photography, Newcastle NSW Australia

Tinder’s role in their getting together was something the couple wanted to celebrate at their wedding, so they commissioned a photo board re-creating their Tinder match that guests would see as they entered the ceremony. 

“The sign at our wedding was to pay homage to the instigation of our romance via Tinder!'” Ingrid said. “People loved the sign at our wedding and wanted to know all about the story if they hadn’t heard it before. We still have the sign, and plan on keeping it to remind us of our story!” 

That impulse is becoming increasingly common. Bakeries make Tinder-themed wedding sweets; Tinder-themed save-the-dates and engagement announcements go out ahead of the events; “swiping” features prominently in wedding hashtags; and napkins, coasters, banners, and photo boards all might contain the couple’s dating app stories. 

“Sometimes they’ll do a sign that has a timeline of events of when they met, when they proposed, and the very first item is usually the day they swiped right,” Gabrielle Pinkerton, a wedding planner at Cause We Can Events, said. Pinkerton has the most-liked post under the hashtag #TinderWeddings on Instagram. In it, captioning a couple leaning against a retro air-stream bus, she talks about the prevalence of dating apps in leading couples to engagement.

Brooke Corbett and her fiancé Doug Wenz are getting married this April in Mexico. They are limited in terms of what they can bring in terms of decor, since it’s a destination wedding. But they still wanted to pay homage to Tinder somehow — just in a way that would fit in their suitcases. So the couple purchased custom-made “It’s a Match” matchbooks to give to guests in Cancun.

“We had to do something,” Corbett said. “To me it’s funny that that was how I met the person that I was going to marry.”

Tinder is in on it, too.

“About a year or two after Tinder launched, we started noticing a trend of more and more couples incorporating Tinder into their proposals, engagement photos, and weddings,” a Tinder spokesperson said. “We even began to receive invites to people’s weddings across the globe.”

Doug and Brooke's "It's a Match!" matchsticks will be making the trip to their destination wedding in Mexico.

Doug and Brooke’s “It’s a Match!” matchsticks will be making the trip to their destination wedding in Mexico.

Image: Doug Wenz

Tinder says it’s “impossible to know” how many Tinder dates end in marriage, but it gets “thousands of success stories” from people who have found a new relationship, a life partner, or are even having a baby, thanks to the platform. Because the company gets a high volume of messages and requests, they respond to happy couples with notes and presents, and even make their offices available for engagements, when they can.

A market for Tinder-themed wedding accessories has sprung up online. The owner of the Etsy shop SnapProps began selling various dating-app themed wedding accessories in 2017. “Demand has definitely increased recently,” the SnapProps owner said. “We know that it is a result of more and more people using dating apps to meet and fall in love.”

The store’s most popular Tinder-themed item is a Tinder-style greeting card; the second most popular is a life-size Tinder profile board

“It’s our story, and I just wanted to have something that showed that piece of it,” Corbett said of her matchbooks. “That’s where it started.”

Embracing the role that dating apps play in a couple’s love story can still be complicated, though. According to Bumble’s in-house sociologist, Dr. Jess Carbino, the stigma of meeting and marrying via dating apps hasn’t gone away completely, but it has “eroded.” A 2015 Pew study about how people view dating apps backs that up: In 2015, 59 percent of US adults considered online dating a good way to meet people, as opposed to 44 percent who held that belief in 2005.

Some say that uncomfortable feelings still lurk around dating apps, especially when it comes to matrimony.

“While people are probably happy to say that that’s how they met, there is still that perceived stigma there,” Monty King, the wedding “celebrant” (Australian for officiant), who married Ingrid and Ross, said. “It’s always going to vary from couple to couple.”

Stigma might be abating, but it still exists.

Stigma might be abating, but it still exists.

Pinkerton said that she had witnessed some reluctance to mentioning dating apps, especially in front of parents or older, more conservative family members. Some parents of couples have made snide comments, which Pinkerton said she diffuses by cheerfully mentioning her own story.

“My husband and I met on Tinder, and I think at first it was a little taboo, and we were a little nervous to tell people how we met,” Pinkerton said. “Now, that’s really opened up some interesting conversation with clients because it automatically gets this trust factor.”

Stigma around dating apps might seem like it’s in the rear view mirror. But, “Historically, the traditional institutions that connected people were religious, familial, or educational,” Dr. Carbino said. “As people have started to delay marriage and childbearing, they become less close to those traditional institutions.”

Stigma around dating apps might seem like it’s in the rear view mirror.  

The mere fact that dating apps are different from the past stigmatized them. It didn’t help that they were (incorrectly) cast as tools for people who couldn’t make those institutions work for them.

“There was a lot of stigma and taboo because it had this association with desperation,” Wang said. “It was perceived as this less ideal way of meeting people. And there were people who saw it as too transactional. Some people prefer this more mythical, spontaneous way of meeting people.”

The myth of the meet-cute also casts its shadow over couples who began their relationship online. 

“In traditional settings, when people met each other there was supposedly this crystalizing moment, this mythical, spontaneous, love-at-first sight mentality,” Wang said. “Now, with online dating, it’s more of a numbers game. It’s more quantitative, more structured. The magical quality is reduced.”

The persistent stigma is what makes the wedding decor — and the embrace of the dating app origin story — so, dare I say, romantic.

“These apps are a huge part of why we ended up together,” Annie McAndrews, who is engaged to fiancé Jason — and who announced her engagement on Instagram by wearing a Tinder T-shirt — said. “I thought it was kismet, and this is the best way to tell people.”

McAndrews jokingly calls her fiancé a “Tinder loser” because she thought he blew her off after their first date. After a chance encounter at a bar a year later, some painfully awkward texts, and a separate match on OkCupid, Jason persuaded McAndrews to give him another shot. Their wedding will be this summer at the Boat House in Central Park. To her April bachelorette party in Florida, McAndrews and her bachelorette celebrants will be wearing T-shirts that say “Sponsored by Tinder.” (They are not officially sponsored by Tinder.) She’ll also be giving shirts to her parents.

Many Tinder stories involve a first meeting and some time apart before a re-connection; there’s that idea of digital fate bringing two people who might not have otherwise met together. So it’s not even that different from a meet-cute! Tinder is reclaiming the “magic” of “how did you meet?” — previously typically answered with something like “through friends” — with a bigger sense of both fate and realism.

For example, my partner and I did not meet through a dating app. We met at a party, and when people ask us how we got together, that’s what we tell them — full stop.

Now, that’s true, but that log line doesn’t contain the exciting-yet-rocky first few months of our relationship, which included various ghostings and serendipitous moments that ended up ultimately bringing us back together — just like a Tinder relationship. 

Because Tinder origin stories have less of a veneer of fantasy, the actual origin story communicates a greater truth about the messiness, chance, and luck that characterizes the beginning of a lot of modern romances — whether they started off or online. And that’s something couples are putting out there for the world to see. It’s refreshing.

Love may abound at Tinder weddings, but so do laughs. 

“Now is the time when all of the people who started out with the hookup app are starting to get married,” McAndrews said. “It’s embraced and a joke.”

“There’s a reason why people find it funny,” Wang said. “They find it cheeky. They find it almost ironic, interesting, or subversive. I think that speaks to a certain level of discomfort still. Using this sort of confrontation, this subversion, this comedic quality almost, that’s how people get over that discomfort.”

“While people are probably happy to say that that’s how they met, there is still that perceived stigma there,” King agreed. “It’s kind of that self-deprecating kind of humor. You’re happy to laugh at yourself, and hit it head on. So there isn’t that people whispering behind their hands ‘you know they met on Tinder.’ They’re owning their shit.”

These humorous embraces of Tinder weddings will help them become even more accepted, according to Wang. 

“Right now it’s kind of tongue in cheek,” Wang said.
They do it ironically to get laughs. But very soon, it will be rather blasé.”

I asked Dr. Carbino whether the question of stigma around dating apps was passé. Her answer was an unequivocal yes; even if there are some groups who remain uncomfortable, all statistics point to the view that dating apps are just how you meet people now. Wang, King, and others I spoke to for this piece agreed.

“There’s still a lot of stigma, but that stigma has definitely decreased pretty significantly,” Wang said.  

The phenomenon of dating app-themed wedding decor actually cuts both ways on this question of whether embarrassment still lingers over meeting your partner online. 

The decorations show that people are embracing their dating app origin stories. They’re sharing how they met in more detail, and celebrating their beginnings at the actual nuptial event.

But the actual form that the accessories take, and many of our reactions to them, indicates that our feelings about dating apps are not totally resolved. We’re comfortable enough to throw a novelty nod to Bumble or Twitter on a coaster, or in a hashtag. The action is a stance of good-humored pride. But it’s almost done as a pre-emptive strike; a chin held high, so as not to be cuffed down. 

Still, the tide against the taboo has definitely shifted. People use dating apps just as they do Amazon or Facebook: All the time, for fun, for business, or for everything in between. And maybe the transactional nature of dating apps is a bit funny, still. But the role Tinder and other apps are playing in marriage, and family, is undeniable. And that’s something worth celebrating — whether it’s on a cake, embossed on a sign, etched in a matchbook, or just in people’s memories.

“I call this a modern day Romeo and Juliet,” McAndrews said. “You guys wish your story was as romantic as ours.”

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Tinder agrees to settle age discrimination lawsuit

Tinder recently agreed to settle a $23 million class-action age discrimination lawsuit. The lawsuit, filed last April in California, alleged Tinder charged people over 30 years old twice the amount for its subscription services.

The class consists of every person, 29 years of age or older at the time, who subscribed to Tinder Plus or Tinder Gold between March 2, 2015 and the date of preliminary approval, according to the proposed order granting motion for preliminary approval of the class-action settlement.

“Under the Settlement, Defendants agree to a multifaceted Settlement structure, which includes a universal participation component (automatic benefits to all Class Members);,” the settlement states. “An additional cash or cash-equivalent payout to Class Members who submit timely valid claims; and an agreement to substantially halt Defendants’ allegedly discriminatory practices going forward.”

Filed on behalf of about 230,000 class members, each person will be able to receive either $25 in cash, 25 additional Super Likes or a one-month subscription to either Tinder Plus or Tinder Gold. As part of the settlement, Tinder must distribute $11.5 million to all class members, as well as $5.75 million in potential cash or cash-equivalents (e.g. Super Likes) to every class member who submits a claim.

Tinder has also agreed to stop charging people — just those located in California — different prices based on their age. That carries a value of at least $5.75 million, according to the settlement. In total, this amounts to a $23 million settlement.

I’ve reached out to Tinder and will update this story if I hear back. In the meantime, feel free to check out the settlement below.

Tinder is testing the ability to share Spotify music clips in chat

Tinder has already developed a fairly robust chat platform within its dating app, with support for sharing things like Bitmoji and GIFs, and the ability to “like” messages by tapping a heart icon. Now, the company is testing a new integration – sharing music via Spotify. Tinder confirmed with TechCrunch it’s trying out a new way to connect users, by allowing them to share music within their chats.

The test is currently taking place across global markets, and Spotify is the only music service involved.

The new feature was first spotted by the blog MSPoweruser who speculated the addition could be an experiment on Tinder’s part, ahead of a public launch. That does seem to be the case, as it turns out.

According to screenshots the site posted, a green music icon has been swapped in for the Bitmoji icon. Clicking this allows you to enter a query into a search box and see matching results displayed above. You’re not able to share the full song, however – only a 30-second clip.

Above: Tinder music test with Spotify; credits: MSPoweruser

Tinder, like its rival Bumble, has offered integration with Spotify’s streaming music service since 2016.

Both apps allow users to connect their Spotify accounts in order to showcase their top artists on their profile. As Tinder explained at the time of launch, music can be a powerful signal in terms of attraction and plays an important role in terms of getting to know a new connection, as well.

The company even launched its own profile on Spotify with playlists focused on dating, love and romance as a part of its collaboration with the music service.

The Spotify integration has paid off for Tinder in terms of user engagement within its app, the company tells us.

“Users love connecting over shared tastes in music,” a Tinder spokesperson explained. “In fact, users who update their ‘Anthem’ are most likely to start a conversation via Feed. With this in mind, we’re testing the ability to share music with a match while chatting on Tinder,” they added.

The “Anthem” is a feature that lets you pick a favorite song or one that’s representative of your tastes or personality. This is then highlighted in a special section on your Tinder profile.

Tinder did not offer any details as to when it expects the test to wrap or when it would launch music sharing more broadly.

Facebook staff discussed selling API access to app developers in 2012-2014

Following a flopped IPO in 2012, Facebook desperately brainstormed new ways to earn money. An employee of unknown rank sent an internal email suggesting Facebook charge developers $250,000 per year for access to its platform APIs for making apps that can ask users for access to their data. Employees also discussed offering Tinder extended access to users’ friends’ data that was being removed from the platform in exchange for Tinder’s trademark on “Moments”, which Facebook wanted to use for a photo sharing app it later launched. Facebook decided against selling access to the API, and did not strike a deal with Tinder or other companies including Amazon and Royal Bank Of Canada mentioned in employee emails.

The discussions were reported by the Wall Street Journal as being part of a sealed court document its reporters had reviewed from a lawsuit by bikini photo finding app developer Six4Three against Facebook alleging anti-competitive practices in how it changed the platform in 2014 to restrict access to friends’ data through the platform.

The biggest question remaining is how high in rank the employees who discussed these ideas were. If the ideas were seriously considered by high-ranking executives, especially CEO Mark Zuckerberg, the revelation could contradict the company’s long-running philosophy on not selling data access. Zuckerberg told congress in April that “I can’t be clearer on this topic: We don’t sell data.” If the discussion was between low-level employees, it may have been little more than an off-hand suggestion as Facebook was throwing ideas against the wall, and may have been rejected or ignored by higher-ups. But either way, now that the discussion has leaked, it could validate the public’s biggest fears about Facebook and whether it’s a worthy steward of our personal data.

An employee emailed others about the possibility of removing platform API access “in one-go to all apps that don’t spend… at least $250k a year to maintain access to the data”, the document shows. Facebook clarified to TechCrunch that these discussions were regarding API access, and not selling data directly to businesses. The WSJ story does not specify that the discussions were about API access, which Facebook continues to give away for free to developers.

Facebook provided this full statement to TechCrunch:

“As we’ve said many times, the documents Six4Three gathered for this baseless case are only part of the story and are presented in a way that is very misleading without additional context. Evidence has been sealed by a California court so we are not able to disprove every false accusation. That said, we stand by the platform changes we made in 2015 to stop a person from sharing their friends’ data with developers. Any short-term extensions granted during this platform transition were to prevent the changes from breaking user experience. To be clear, Facebook has never sold anyone’s data. Our APIs have always been free of charge and we have never required developers to pay for using them, either directly or by buying advertising.”

A half decade-later, with the world’s will turned against Facebook, the discussions of selling data access couldn’t come at a worse time for the company. Even if quickly aborted, the idea could now stoke concerns that Facebook has too much power and too much of our personal information. While the company eventually found other money-makers and became highly profitable, the discussions illuminate how Facebook could potentially exploit people’s data more aggressively if it deemed it necessary.