Dating app Bumble faces criticism for anti-celibacy ads

In response, Bumble has pledged to remove the ads and make donations to relevant organisations.

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Bumble, a popular dating app, recently apologised following backlash over a series of advertisements that critics argued undermined the freedom of choice for daters. The company acknowledged that the ads, which suggested celibacy was not the answer to modern dating frustrations, had unintentionally offended rather than brought joy and humour as intended.

Launched in late April alongside a redesign of the app, the ads featured billboards with slogans such as ‘A vow of celibacy is not the answer’ and ‘Thou shalt not give up on dating and become a nun’. However, the swift criticism accused Bumble of delegitimising celibacy and pressuring individuals into sexual activity.

In response to the controversy, Bumble announced the removal of the ads and pledged donations to the National Domestic Violence Hotline and other organisations supporting women, marginalised communities, and victims of abuse. Founded in 2014, Bumble, initially recognised for its feature allowing only women to send the first message to potential heterosexual partners, changed with the recent redesign, eliminating this distinctive trait.

Why does it matter?

Despite its popularity and innovative features, Bumble has encountered challenges, including turnover and layoffs, with Whitney Wolfe Herd, its founder, stepping down in the previous year. Moreover, like its counterparts in the dating app industry, Bumble has introduced premium features and pricing tiers to attract users, boasting over 2.7 million paying subscribers in its recent quarterly report. However, Bumble’s stock closed at $11.51 on Monday, marking a 22% decrease for the year, reflecting broader challenges within the company and the sector.

In a study from 2020, the Norwegian Consumer Council found that popular dating apps collect sensitive information and share it with many advertisers. The data included the user’s exact location, sexual orientation, religious and political beliefs, drug use and other information, which were then sent to at least 135 different third-party companies.