Australia urges dating apps to enhance safety standards amid alarming rates of sexual violence

Citing research that reveals three out of four Australian users have experienced some form of sexual violence through these platforms, Communications Minister Michelle Rowland has given these companies until June 30 to develop a voluntary code of conduct addressing user safety concerns.

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The Australian government has called on the online dating industry to enhance safety standards in response to research revealing that three out of four Australian users have experienced some form of sexual violence through dating platforms.

Communications Minister Michelle Rowland has given popular dating companies like Tinder, Bumble, and Hinge until June 30 to create a voluntary code of conduct to address user safety concerns. The proposed code may involve improving collaboration with law enforcement, supporting vulnerable users, enhancing safety policies, and increasing transparency regarding potential harms. If safety standards are not adequately improved, the government is prepared to use regulations and legislation to enforce changes while aiming to balance innovation and safety.

This move follows research from the Australian Institute of Criminology, which found high rates of sexual harassment, abusive language, unsolicited sexual content, and violence facilitated by these platforms. The Australian Information Industry Association has welcomed the government’s approach, emphasising the need for industry collaboration in addressing these issues.

Bumble has declined to comment on the matter, while Tinder and Hinge have not yet responded to requests for comments. Online dating researcher Kath Albury suggested that safety improvements might include giving users more explicit expectations regarding response times when reporting unwanted or threatening contacts.

Why does it matter?

With online dating becoming more popular, dating app companies must work actively to make their digital spaces safer. The government’s call for a voluntary code of conduct shows it is trying to balance innovation and user safety, recognising these apps’ significant impact on modern relationships. Nonetheless, if the companies do not address these issues internally, the government may consider mandating background checks for dating app users, as previously discussed earlier this year. It’s important to note that safety is not the only concern regarding dating apps. Experts are also studying the impact of dating apps on mental health, and early findings indicate the emergence of ‘dating fatigue’ and lower self-esteem among users.