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Swipe right if your online date has suddenly turned into a nightmare

Online dating apps have pledged to escalate complaints of imminent safety threats more swiftly to police under a voluntary industry code.

Jul 05, 2024, updated Jul 05, 2024
The Australian Institute of Criminology survey of 9987 app users found three-quarters were victims of some form of online sexual violence in the past five years.(file image)

The Australian Institute of Criminology survey of 9987 app users found three-quarters were victims of some form of online sexual violence in the past five years.(file image)

The companies behind Tinder, Hinge, Bumble, Grindr, RSVP and eharmony are among those to adopt the code, developed after the 2023 national roundtable on online dating safety.

The Albanese government said the platforms would beef up engagement with law enforcement agencies, including proactively escalating complaints when there was an “imminent threat” to the complainant’s safety.

Other features of the code are systems to detect potential incidents of online-enabled harm, termination of accounts found to have violated online safety policies, and prominent, clear and transparent complaint and reporting mechanisms.

“eharmony is proud to have worked collaboratively with leaders across the online dating industry to develop a voluntary code to provide the safest experience possible for Australian daters,” the company said in a statement.

The platforms will also publish regular transparency reports detailing the number of Australian accounts terminated, as well as a rating system tracking whether each dating service is meeting its commitments.

Communications Minister Michelle Rowland said the code was an Australian-first for the online dating sector.

“Online dating is now the most common way to meet a partner in Australia,” she said.

“These services did not develop overnight, and the lack of action over the last decade means that regulation has not kept pace with technology.”

A study published by the Australian Institute of Criminology in 2022 found 72.3 per cent of dating app users had been subjected to online sexual violence over the previous five years.

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Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth said the code would improve safety for Australians using dating apps and help people make choices about the platforms they use.

“Everyone deserves to live a life free of violence no matter where they are – and this includes online,” she said.

The code will be operationalised over the next three months and be enforced by a three-member committee, who can issue formal warnings and suspend or remove participants.

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