Australia instructs dating apps to improve its safety standards the online dating business to improve safety standards or face legislative action.
The Australian government warned Monday that the online dating business must improve safety standards or be compelled to make changes through legislation, citing research that shows three-quarters of Australian users have experienced sexual abuse on the platforms.
Popular dating apps like Tinder, Bumble, and Hinge have until June 30 to draught a voluntary code of conduct that addresses user safety concerns, according to Communications Minister Michelle Rowland.
According to her, the code may include better cooperation with law enforcement, assisting at-risk users, improving safety policies and practises, and offering more openness regarding harms.
However, if safety standards are not adequately improved, the government will utilise regulation and legislation to force change, according to Rowland.
“What we want to do in this sector is not stifle innovation, but balance the harms,” she told reporters.
“Online dating is actually the most popular way for Australians to meet new people and to form new relationships,” Rowland said.
The government is responding to research published by the Australian Institute of Criminology last year, which found that three-quarters of users of dating apps or websites had experienced sexual violence through these platforms in the five years leading up to 2021.
“The government is concerned about rates of sexual harassment, abusive and threatening language, unsolicited sexual images and violence facilitated by these platforms,” she added.
While not representing the online dating business, the Australian Information business Association hailed the government’s stance as “very measured.”
“That’s the way the government should regulate technology,” the association’s chief executive, Simon Bush, said. “Point out where there’s an issue, get the industry together and get the industry to look to see if they can resolve these issues first before pulling the regulatory trigger.”
Bumble did not respond. Tinder and Hinge did not reply immediately to calls for comment.
“One of the things that dating app users are concerned about is the sense that complaints go into the void or there’s a response that feels automated or not personal responsive in a time when they’re feeling quite unsafe or distressed,” Albury told Australian Broadcasting Corp.
Expert in online dating safety and researcher at Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Kath Albury suggests making it more transparent how quickly a user may expect a response after reporting an unwelcome or threatening contact.