Does Tin­der’s Men­prove­ment drive do enough to pro­tect women?

The Guardian - G2 - - Women -

My friend Jessie doesn’t use Tin­der any more. Aside from the swipe-in­duced RSI and the se­rial ghosters, her main mo­ti­va­tion for giv­ing up the dat­ing app was the time she matched with a man who sent her a threat­en­ing mes­sage. “He said: ‘I’m gonna fuck you from be­hind, and I don’t care whether you want to or not,’” she re­calls.

Un­for­tu­nately, threats of sex­ual as­sault and abuse against women are not un­com­mon on dat­ing apps. Re­ports of crimes re­lated to apps such as Tin­der and Grindr in the UK have risen by 382% in the past five years with many in­ap­pro­pri­ate mes­sages doc­u­mented on blogs such as Bye Felipe.

Women be­have abu­sively, but by and large this is a prob­lem per­pe­trated by men and male-iden­ti­fy­ing app users. And so, as I and many of my fe­male friends work our way through var­i­ous dat­ing apps, I’m gen­er­ally in favour of any­thing that is de­signed to keep us safe. Tin­der launched an anti-ha­rass­ment fea­ture last week called Re­ac­tions: a se­lec­tion of an­i­mated re­sponses on­lynly avail­able to fe­male users, al­low­ing them – among other things – to throw a vir­tual mar­tini in the face of a user who is both­er­ing them, or send a sar­cas­tic eye roll. It is part of the com­pany’s Men­prove­ment ini­tia­tive, launched with a video in which the com­pany’s fe­male em­ploy­ees de­cide that “call­ing out douchebags should be easy and fun”.

En­cour­ag­ing women to en­gage in con­ver­sa­tion with the “douchebags” who threaten or de­mean them risks fur­ther en­forc­ing the be­lief that flirt­ing and abuse are two sides of the same coin. “It’s sim­ple. It’s sassy. It’s sat­is­fy­ing,” says the com­pany. But is it? Tin­der says Re­ac­tions weren’t de­signed to fight ha­rass­ment on the app: “To achieve that, we’ve in­sti­tuted a num­ber of ini­tia­tives across the board, in­clud­ing stricter com­mu­nity guide­lines, new mes­sag­ing stan­dards for all users, and up­dated our re­port­ing sys­tem to make it eas­ier to use.... Tin­der has a zero-tol­er­ance pol­icy on abuse and takes the ap­pro­pri­ate ac­tions to com­bat it.”

I speak to Va­lerie Stark, CEO and co­founder of dat­ing app H Hug­glel aboutb her strate­gies for com­bat­ing ha­rass­ment. “We’re us­ing tech­nol­ogy that maps

160 points on your face,” says S Stark. “This is how we ver­ify your pro­file. So you take a picture of your­self copy­ing one of the ges­tures we show you on screen, then com­pare it against the pic­tures you up­loaded.” T This sense of ac­count­abil­ity means men are less likely to make in­ap­pro­pri­ate com­ments. Louise Troen, global brand di­rec­tor of Bum­ble, is also keen to high­light the im­por­tance of keep­ing women safe. (In­deed, the app was founded by a for­mer Tin­der exec, Whit­ney Wolfe, af­ter she sued the com­pany for sex­ual ha­rass­ment.) She stresses that Bum­ble has a zero-tol­er­ance pol­icy to abuse, adding that “as soon as you cre­ate a re­sponse to ha­rass­ment through things like emo­jis or gifs, you al­most end up less­en­ing the sever­ity of it”. Bum­ble pre­vi­ously went pub­lic in its re­sponse, pub­lish­ing an open let­ter that out­lined why a per­pe­tra­tor of abuse, named as Con­nor, would never be al­lowed back.

That Tin­der – with about 50 mil­lion users a month – is try­ing to police its app is surely a step in the right di­rec­tion. But Re­ac­tions still puts the onus on users. Why not tar­get male users, too, and ask them to mod­er­ate their be­hav­iour or risk be­ing turfed out?

Yes­ter­day I logged into Tin­der and in my in­box was a mes­sage ask­ing if ear­lier that day I had been near a tube sta­tion. I filed this un­der “pretty creepy”. I hov­ered over a Re­ac­tion of a big red cross with the word “strike” un­der­neath but, rather than spurring the con­ver­sa­tion on fur­ther, I opted to un­match and block. Un­like a vir­tual slap on the wrist, it of­fered at least a lit­tle peace of mind.

Han­nah J Davies

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