CANBERRA, Australia –
The Australian government said on Monday that the dating app industry must improve its security measures or face legislation forcing it to do so, responding to a report that three out of four Australian users experience some form of sexual violence. Cross-platform.
Communications Minister Michelle Rowland said popular dating companies such as Tinder, Bumble and Hinge had until June 30 to develop a voluntary code of conduct that addresses user safety concerns.
The code could include improvements in interactions with law enforcement, support for at-risk users, improvements in security policies and practices and more transparency about risks, he said.
However, Rowland added that the government would use regulations and laws to enforce changes if safety standards were not sufficiently improved.
“What we want to do in this sector is not to stifle innovation, but to weigh the risks,” he told reporters.
The government was responding to a study published last year by the Australian Institute of Criminology that found three out of four users of dating sites or apps had experienced some form of sexual violence on these platforms in the five years to 2021.
“Online dating is actually the most popular way for Australians to meet new people and form new relationships,” Rowland said.
“The government is concerned about the prevalence of sexual harassment, offensive and threatening language, unwanted sexual images and violence enabled by these platforms,” the minister added.
The Australian Information Industry Association, which represents the information and communications technology sector in Australia but not dating services, praised the government’s strategy as “very cautious”.
“This is how the government should regulate technology,” said the association’s director general, Simon Bush. “Raise attention that there is a problem, bring the industry together and let them see if they can solve these problems first before pushing the regulation button.”
Bumble declined to comment. Tinder and Hinge did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Kath Albury, an online dating expert at Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, said improvements could include more clarity on response time for a user who has reported threatening or unwanted contact.
“One of the things that worries app users is the feeling that complaints remain in a vacuum, or that a response that seems automated or impersonal, at a time when they feel quite insecure or distressed” Albury told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.