In a bid to tackle the startling rates of sexual violence reported on online dating platforms, the Australian government has issued a stern ultimatum to industry giants such as Tinder, Bumble, and Hinge. Based on alarming research suggesting that three in four Australian users have experienced some form of sexual violence through these platforms, Communications Minister Michelle Rowland announced that these companies have until June 30 to voluntarily improve their safety standards or face potential legislative intervention. The proposed improvements include enhanced engagement with law enforcement, better support for at-risk users, transparency about harms, and bolstered safety policies and practices.
The government’s hardline stance comes in response to a study by the Australian Institute of Criminology published last year. The research highlighted that online dating, the most popular way for Australians to meet new people and form relationships, was also a hotbed for sexual harassment, abusive language, unsolicited sexual images, and violence. Rowland emphasized that the government’s goal was not to stifle innovation within the sector, but to strike a balance between the potential harms and benefits. Despite its firm approach, the government’s actions have been described as "very measured" by the Australian Information Industry Association, reflecting the seriousness of the issue at hand.
Australian Government Demands Improved Safety Standards for Online Dating Platforms
CANBERRA, Australia – The Australian government has issued a stern warning to the online dating industry: improve safety standards or face mandatory changes through legislation. This move comes in response to a concerning study that reveals 75% of Australian online dating users have experienced some form of sexual violence on these platforms.
Call for a Voluntary Code of Conduct
Communications Minister Michelle Rowland has given popular dating platforms such as Tinder, Bumble, and Hinge until June 30 to develop a voluntary code of conduct that addresses user safety concerns. The proposed code of conduct should include measures like strengthening engagement with law enforcement, supporting at-risk users, improving safety policies, and providing greater transparency about harms.
However, if the platforms fail to sufficiently improve their safety standards, the government has vowed to enforce changes through regulation and legislation. “What we want to do in this sector is not stifle innovation, but balance the harms,” Rowland stated.
Rising Concern over Sexual Violence on Dating Platforms
The government’s move comes in the backdrop of research published last year by the Australian Institute of Criminology. The study found that three out of four users of dating apps or websites had experienced some form of sexual violence through these platforms in the five years up to 2021.
“Online dating is actually the most popular way for Australians to meet new people and to form new relationships,” Rowland said. However, she expressed concern about the high rates of sexual harassment, abusive and threatening language, unsolicited sexual images, and violence facilitated by these platforms.
Industry Response and Expert Opinions
The Australian Information Industry Association, which represents the information and communications technology industry in Australia, welcomed the government’s approach as “very measured”. Its chief executive, Simon Bush, stated that this is how the government should regulate technology, by pointing out issues and encouraging the industry to resolve them before resorting to regulatory measures.
Meanwhile, online dating researcher Kath Albury from Melbourne’s Swinburne University of Technology suggested that safety improvements could include clearer guidelines on how quickly users can expect feedback after reporting unwanted or threatening contact.
The Australian government’s call for improved safety measures on online dating platforms is both timely and necessary. With online dating becoming a popular means of forming new relationships, it’s crucial that these platforms prioritize user safety. The proposed voluntary code of conduct could be a significant step towards a safer online dating environment. However, it will require the full cooperation and commitment of the dating platforms. It will be interesting to see how these platforms respond to the government’s call and what measures they will implement to protect their users.