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Australian Government Calls on Dating Apps to Enhance Safety Measures

Around 45 percent of users encountered abusive and threatening language, while 18.8 percent were subject to non-consensual distribution of nude images.

The Australian government has demanded dating apps and websites collaborate to improve safety measures in the latest crackdown on the industry.

In recent letters to online dating companies, the federal government has called on the industry to develop a voluntary code of conduct to protect the safety of users following a National Cabinet meeting in January revealing alarming violence trends stemming from online dating.

The minister for communications and social services said that while many online dating platforms had implemented measures to enhance user protection, the outcomes were limited and varied from company to company.

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Minister for Social Services Amanda Rishworth said dating app violence was a form of gender-based violence and needed to be eliminated.

“There is no arbitrary line between online and offline in our lives anymore. Abuse can cross between them like osmosis,” she said in a statement.

“We need to ensure that our community, including dating app users, know what it means to be respectful online, what kinds of behaviours are unacceptable, and the consequences for unacceptable behaviours.”

The government said the code of conduct needed to include measures to improve engagement with law enforcement, support at-risk users, improve safety policies and practices, and increase harm transparency.

The deadline for the code is the middle of 2024, and the government warned that it would impose regulations on the industry if the code of conduct did not produce results.

“Online dating platforms must do their part to end violence against women,” Minister for Communications Michelle Rowland said.
“I have made it crystal clear that if the industry fails to improve safety outcomes for Australians, we will not hesitate to develop legislative options.”

The State of Abuse and Violence Among Online Dating Apps

A study (pdf) of 10,000 Australian adults by the Australian Institute of Criminology in October 2022 revealed that abuse and sexual violence were rife among users of dating programs.

As the number of online dating users has exploded over the past ten years, there has been an exponential increase in incidents of dating app-facilitated sexual violence (DAFSV).

A user checks the dating app Tinder on a mobile phone in Islamabad, Pakistan, on Oct. 6, 2020. (Aamir Qureshi/AFP via Getty Images)
A user checks the dating app Tinder on a mobile phone in Islamabad, Pakistan, on Oct. 6, 2020. (Aamir Qureshi/AFP via Getty Images)

The research found that nearly three in four respondents (72.3 percent) were subject to at least one form of DAFSV in the past five years.

Sexual harassment was the most common form of abuse behaviour reported (69 percent), followed by being contacted again by someone after the respondent said they were not interested (47.3 percent), and being sent sexual images when they did not ask for them (40.9 percent).

Around 45 percent of those surveyed encountered abusive and threatening language, while 18.8 percent were subject to non-consensual creation, distribution, or threatened distribution of nude or sexual images.

In addition, 27.6 percent said they had been stalked online after using online dating platforms.

Six in ten respondents (60.8 percent) also claimed that they were subjected to multiple forms of online DAFSV.

At the same time, the study found that LGBT+ men and women were more likely to experience DAFSV when using those dating services.

Specifically, 36.3 percent of LGBT+ men and 42.1 percent of LGBT+ women reported sexual assault and coercion.

Meanwhile, the figures for heterosexual men and women were much lower at 21.2 percent and 27.9 percent, respectively.

Tara Hunter, the CEO of Full Stop Australia–a social organisation supporting people affected by sexual, domestic, or family violence—advised people to take some measures to protect themselves.

“It is important not to share a whole lot of your personal details or information,” she told Nine News.

“If you’re meeting up with people, let someone know where you are going.

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