A question that has been asked one too many times recently is: How safe are dating apps? This year, dating apps in India have been linked to a myriad of cases, ranging from assault to murder. While countries such as Australia are issuing an ultimatum to dating apps to improve safety for users and address sexual assault on the platforms, there is a general feeling of uneasiness about meeting strangers through apps. Now, dating apps like Tinder are on a quest to change that.
In a bid to make dating safer for users, Tinder has announced a dating safety guide for online daters in India, in collaboration with the Centre for Social Research, a non-profit organisation. The guide leverages the NGO’s insights, research and expertise to create the guide that contains safety guidelines and education about online dating safety in India.
In 2022, a survey by the Australian Institute of Criminology, with almost 10,000 participants, found that more than 75% of people who use dating apps have been subjected to sexual violence in the past five years. The most common form of behaviour was sexual harassment, with abusive and threatening language, followed by unsolicited sexual images. In another 2022 study by Tinder, 98% of young Indians said that safety measures on dating apps are important.
The Tinder Dating Guide for India aims to create awareness about maintaining good hygiene on the app, maintaining online safety, and exercising thoughtfulness in the dating space. While Tinder already has safety features such as mandatory compliance with community guidelines such as not giving away too much personal information and not lying about identity and video selfies (answer a series of video prompts for photo verification), they also have built-in AI features this year.
For instance, the Are You Sure? prompt urgers users to rethink their first message to someone. It uses AI to detect harmful language and warn the sender that their message may be offensive. It also has a feature for tapping and holding a message to report bad behaviour while messaging, blocking profiles, and a traveller alert which notifies LGBTQIA+ users if the country they are travelling to has laws that penalise the community, giving the option to opt out of their profile in the area.
The new dating guide takes one step further, focusing on how to build safe connections online. There is much talk about red flags, but not enough about green ones, which can give more control in the dating space. According to the guide, some green flags include having an open mind and showing kindness, consistency in communication, making you feel comfortable about yourself, and having clear intentions about what you are looking for.
One of the easiest ways to ensure safety is to meet online before you take it offline. When users stick to having conversations and video chat on dating apps, their personal information including their number remains out of reach. Also, in the time of rising scammers, it’s important to look out for those who ask for financial help and anyone who won't talk on a phone or video call before meeting.
When meeting, choose a public and familiar place and have an exit plan such as a call from family or friends. Importantly, trust your gut. Also, if something feels uncomfortable, then there is a reason for it.
Moreover, consent is much talked about, but it still needs a constant reminder. While verbal consent can include saying, “yes” and “don’t stop”, non-verbal can include nodding and engagement. In contrast, if someone pushes you away, says no or anything similar, it’s not consent. With a new partner, it’s always good to use verbal consent to ensure clarity. Consent can also be withdrawn at any point if you feel uncomfortable. There are also ways for users to report profiles, before and after matching and unmatching.
Dating apps such as Hinge have also taken steps towards making the platform more inclusive through small steps such as introducing pronouns, relationship type which includes monogamy or non-monogamy, as well as dating intentions. In 2022, Tinder introduced letstalkgender.in — an initiative that demystifies the limitations of the binary construct, highlights the importance of pronouns, and answers questions about partnering with someone who identifies as queer. There are more than 50 gender orientations and nine sexual orientations on the app.
The new guide aims to be a go-to resource when it comes to safety to help users understand how to practice and support people in building healthy relationships from the beginning.