Grindr, the dating app primarily used by gay and bisexual men in the LGBT+ community will remove it’s so called ‘ethnicity filter,’ in its next update.
The change comes amid an international focus on black lives, on the same day a Reuters investigation also raises new questions over Chinese links in the latest sale of the app.
Critics have been highlighting the hypocrisy of the app’s response to Black Lives Matters protest, as the firm was one of many businesses to change profile pictures and social media banners in solidarity.
Currently, when browsing the local area for hook-ups and dating, you can filter people based on their ethnicity, as well as age, height and even weight.
But announcing the change to remove ethnicity from this, Grindr says:
“Racism has no place in our community. We listened and we will continue to fight racism on Grindr, both through dialogue with our community and a zero-tolerance policy for hate speech on our platform.”
But many critics have been focusing on the platforms previous lacklustre attempts to curb the plight of prejudice on its app.
And for some activists the removal of the filter is too little, too late:
“The ethnicity filter has always seemed to me like a symbol of Grindr’s silent complicity in allowing racism to be perpetuated on the platform,” LGBT+ campaigner Alexander Leon tells me.
“Those seeking to sift black and brown men out of their potential dating pool feel empowered to do so knowing that the app gives them this functionality. In that respect, I’m glad they’ve removed it.”
“It’s helped normalize the idea that white people’s racial ‘preferences’ in dating are legitimate. And not the result of discriminatory social conditioning that idealises eurocentric beauty.”
It’s also part of a complex mix, that means this might not even be the right move as the filter was a way of some people of colour navigating the platform, Leon says:
“Many men of colour I’ve spoken to feel frustrated at the removal of this filter too. It has taken away their opportunity to connect with other men of colour on the app, in an interaction in which they’re much less likely to experience racism.
“I’d like to see Grindr develop tools for ethnic minorities to have a safe space on the app. Ways to interact in a way that doesn’t incorporate the existence of a filter which white people can abuse.”
Grindr Faces Questions Over Chinese Links To Sale, From Original Owner
Amid this racism storm, an investor group that has got U.S. approval to buy Grindr Inc–has now been found to have financial and personal links to the dating app’s current owner, China’s Beijing Kunlun Tech Co Ltd, according to Reuters.
If the U.S. approval came with that knowledge, it sets a possible departure from Washington’s current national security policy on deals.
Just two weeks ago, the U.S. announced an expansion on its embargo Huawei, the Chinese tech firm at the centre of a battle between the nations about finance, trade and security, particularly with technology firms.
When presented with Reuters’ findings, a Grindr spokeswoman said:
“The buyers for Grindr were selected after an extensive and unbiased bidding process that complied fully with all applicable regulations, as the receipt of all necessary approvals, including CFIUS, demonstrates.”
And this all sits alongside a long line of privacy issues, data breaches leading to GDPR fines for the app–including the disclosure of HIV status.
Grindr’s Plight of ‘No Fats, No Femmes, No Blacks, No Asians,’ Rife On Profiles
“Your only ever a short Google search away from the complaints about all kinds of prejudice on the platform,” Dee Jas of diversity and inclusion firm colourfull tells me.
“I’ve always perceived Grindr to be an app that caters to a specific demographic of the gay community–typically White, cisgender, masculine/straight acting and physically fit. I think this comes through subconsciously and affects the experience for those who don’t conform to this standard.”
In recent years the platform has tried to stem the racism on its platform with campaigns including “Kindr on Grindr.”
Not just aimed at racism, this hoped to put an end to profiles which listed “No Fats, No Femmes, No Blacks, No Asians.”
But it was a campaign that was just a “light touch marketing campaign” for Pride In London’s finance director Mufseen Miah:
“I’d like to see Grindr have a zero-tolerance policy towards profiles that state ‘no Blacks, no femmes’ and similar exclusionary wording. There is no excuse for using such language which amounts to online bullying.”
It’s hard to be on Grindr if you a anything other than white, gay and attractive
Grindr’s campaigns also attempted to tackle the likes of transphobia, too abundant on the platform:
“Being nonbinary on Grindr was a case of juggling whether to be honest, or not,” Gaydio Host Jacob Edwards tells me.
Edwards presented an edition of the #QueerAF podcast about dating as a nonbinary person to find out just how much hate they received last year.
“It would have been so easy not to fill out the gender option because I pass as male in appearance. But in the end, I went with putting my gender and pronouns on there.
“If anything it acted as a filter, transphobes and haters would ignore me and block me instead.”
Reflecting on the episode, and on today’s news, they believe the platform is still not doing enough to tackle hate:
“I reported so much abuse. Truly awful messages and threats while I was using the app. Only to find that [the reported users] have either come back with a new account or have kept their original account.”
And just like the debates that swirl around Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms–users are more and more looking to the platforms to stop this:
“If you’re building a product that brings people together (for whatever purpose) safety has to be paramount,” colourfull Dee Jas adds.
“That includes safety from any violence, and I don’t use that word lightly. Digital violence is a phenomenon with significant impact. All platforms have a responsibility to act on these issues.”