WARNING: The following article contains descriptions of sexual violence and rape.
Australian women have claimed sexual predators and abusers are exploiting dating app Tinder to find their victims, then using the app’s design features to disappear without a trace.
The multi-billion dollar company behind the popular matching site has also been accused of largely ignoring victims when they come for help, according to an ABC investigation.
A Four Corners report in conjunction with Triple J’s current affairs program Hack found hundreds of people reported experiencing abuse and harassment on the app.
The show, aired on Monday night, detailed how earlier this year one woman posted on social media she had received a message from a Tinder user, sparking an influx of responses from other women who recognised him too.
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An app user named Emily recognised the man because he had allegedly raped her three times after luring her to his house, only occasionally pausing to take photos and film her as he did, the investigation heard.
Of the 400 women who reported experiencing harassment, dozens told the ABC they had reported a sexual offence to Tinder, but less than a quarter of them had received a response.
Out of the 11 people who did actually hear back from the app, “almost all” described a generic message response that provided no information about what, if any, action was taken.
When Emily reported the account of the man she claimed raped her to the app (after eventually finding a way to do so), the response left a lot to be desired.
“I just got an automated response, just a refresh of the page saying, ‘Thanks for submitting.’
“I never heard anything else,” Emily said.
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Emily said police told her there was nothing they could do but would get a warrant to get the evidence from his phone.
“It didn’t seem like anything was going to happen, they didn’t do their jobs to check that this man wasn’t going to hurt anyone else,” Emily said.
“He might have kept those videos, I have no idea if he still has those videos, what he does with those videos,” Emily said.
NSW Police assistant commissioner Stuart Smith said he couldn’t “go into the specific case” but told Four Corners he “will certainly follow that matter up”.
He also said dating app companies were less than helpful when it came to investigations.
“There’s a contact email and they’re supposed to get back to us, there’s always difficulties with that process,” he said.
While Emily was allegedly let down by the police and the app, other women noted a similar experience reporting offenders to Tinder.
A 32-year-old Victorian woman said she received a “bulls**t response” after filing a report, and a follow up was simply ignored, while others said Tinder responded to assure them they took it seriously but wouldn’t be able to tell them anything it was going to do about it.
As the app declined to tell victims what was happening in response to their reports, predators were using the design of the app to avoid being reported in the first place.
On Tinder, if you “unmatch” with someone, they can no longer see your profile, and vice-versa.
Unmatching deletes the text messages shared between users and they disappear from your phone as if you had never even met. This also stops you being able to report them to the app.
Brooke told Four Corners this was how her rapist disappeared, after she claimed he drove her to a secluded area outside Geelong, smashed her phone and raped her after they had gone on three dates in 2017.
Brooke even met the man’s grandmother, who he lived with, before the attack.
After he unmatched her she couldn’t report him to Tinder, or access the messages they had sent each other.
“This was the only way to identify who he was and what he did … and he just completely erased any evidence of himself,” she said.
Without knowing his last name, or even having his phone number, Brooke didn’t feel comfortable going to the police.
“It was completely heart-wrenching because there was no proof that we had even spoken to each other,” she said.
Unmatching is supposed to give people a way to ghost on someone who is being annoying or making them uncomfortable, but US dating app industry consultant Steve Dean told Four Corners unmatching meant “someone can simply escape their bad behaviour by blocking the person they just abused”.
“I think that’s actually one of the most frustrating components of the current Tinder and dating app experience, and I don’t think that that should ever be a possibility, that someone can simply escape their bad behaviour by blocking the person they just abused.”
Match Group, which owns Tinder as well as other apps like Hinge, OkCupid and Plenty of Fish, made $2.8 billion in revenue last year, the bulk of it ($1.7 billion) from Tinder.
No one from the company would submit to an interview with Four Corners, but the company gave a statement saying they were “outraged that singles anywhere may experience fear, discomfort, or worse when looking to meet someone special, and we will always work to improve our systems to make sure everyone on our apps feels respected and safe”.
Tinder also recently introduced a new photo verification feature, which uses machine learning to verify whether the person in pictures on a profile is the same as the person behind the account.
The verification is voluntary and has existed on rival apps such as Bumble for several years.
Emily said she reported her rapist again after seeing the reports from other women, and this time actually got a response, after they reported him too.
“We were able to locate the account that you reported and removed it from Tinder,” the response read. “Please let us know if there is anything else we can help you with.”
“It shouldn’t take more than one woman to take someone off a dating app if he has assaulted someone, why is it so hard? Why did nothing happen the last time?” Emily said.
According to a number of Match employees spoken to by Four Corners, nothing happened because Tinder didn’t allocate the resources.
“I don‘t think anyone outside the moderation and customer support teams gave a sh*t about user safety,” one said.
“We always struggled to keep up with the volume of complaints … it made me really uncomfortable that we were struggling with backlogs where an urgent complaint might have been buried,” said another.
Emily said the multi-billion dollar company should spend some of that money on keeping the people it profits off safe.
“It makes me mad that this platform is making money off of people that are being hurt, and then they can’t even respond properly when people are hurt.”
“What are you doing with your money?”
News.com.au has contacted Match Group, the owner of Tinder, for comment.