Dating Apps Speak Out Against Racism and Reckon With Ethnicity Filters

Brands announce donations and promise in-app changes

dating app logos
Dating apps have announced how they're taking action—including within their platforms.
Bumble, Grindr, Tinder, OkCupid, Hinge

While major dating apps have pivoted their marketing campaigns and in-app functions to promote virtual dating since the Covid-19 pandemic began in March, they’re now shifting focus to address another urgent issue: racial injustice outside and within their platforms.

Like many brands, dating apps have posted social media statements and pledged donations in support of #BlackLivesMatter since global protests began last week in response to the killings of unarmed Black people in America, including George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25; Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Ky., on March 13; Tony McDade in Tallahassee, Fla., on May 27; Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick, Ga. on Feb. 23; and David McAtee, killed by police during the Louisville protests on June 1.

However, it’s no secret that racial bias is prevalent within the apps. A five-year study OkCupid released in 2014 found that Black people and Asian men fared the worst in terms of racial and gender preference among 25 million users. And certain apps have functions that enable users to filter ethnicity, which naturally could encourage discrimination.

Here’s how some of the most popular dating apps have spoken out against racism on social media, and announced plans to change app features and address racist users.

Grindr

The location-based gay dating and hookup app initially tweeted “Demand justice. #BlackLivesMatter” on May 29 and was swiftly met with responses criticizing its option that allows users to filter matches based on ethnicity.

In response, Grindr deleted the tweet and posted a new statement on June 1, announcing a “zero-tolerance policy for racism and hate speech on our platform. As part of this commitment and based on your feedback, we have decided to remove the ethnicity filter from our next release.”

The brand also posted a link to a page of ways to support #BlackLivesMatter, and announced donations to the movement as well as the Marsha P. Johnson Institute, which defends the rights of Black trans people.

While Grindr will delete the filter, users are also calling on the brand to make more of an effort to ban profiles with racist messages.

Bumble

View this post on Instagram

We’ve had a lot of tough conversations within our company about how to respond to the injustices of the past week, and the systemic racism that confronts our country and our Bumble community. Bumble has always had a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to racism, hatred, and bigotry of any kind — both as a business and on our platforms, including within our app. Our priority is to do the work. As a company, and as a community, we’ve made some immediate decisions to prioritize the wellbeing of our employees, many of whom are hurting. ????We’re expanding our mental health guidance for Bumble employees to ensure they have the space and support to process traumatic news events. ????We’re taking a close look internally at how we can consistently facilitate open conversations about racism and violence, not just during a news cycle. ????We’re making donations to the AAPI Civic Fund and the NAACP, non-profits led by, respectively, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and Black Americans. We will continue to evaluate all of our non-profit donations and partnerships through a lens of intersectionality. ????We’re looking at how we can make product and policy improvements to address racism and unconscious bias, led by our internal Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion solution squads. ????We’ll continue our work with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) to root out hate speech within our app, employing artificial intelligence to identify hate symbols and using the ADL’s research and terminology as our standard. ????If you experience any form of racism on Bumble, please use our Block and Report feature so we can investigate each case appropriately. Your safety is paramount, especially during this time of heightened fear and targeted harassment. You can also reach out to our team for support at any time (bumble.com/safety). We know we have work to do. We are listening. This isn’t a one-off post. More to come.

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The women-focused dating and networking app posted a detailed statement on Instagram, noting the brand had held an internal discussion on how to respond to systemic racism in the U.S. and on its platform.

The resulting planned efforts include donating to the AAPI Civic Fund and the NAACP; discussing how to make product and policy improvements to address racism and unconscious bias; working with the Anti-Defamation League to delete hate speech within the app; and expanding mental health resources for employees.

The brand doesn’t have an option for users to filter potential matches based on ethnicity.

Hinge

Hinge announced support for #BlackLivesMatter and donations to organizations to fight racism and transphobia, including the National Black Justice Coalition, Know Your Rights Camp and the Brooklyn Community Bail Fund. In a statement to Adweek, the brand also noted it’s offering employees unlimited access to professional counseling through web-based therapy company BetterHelp.

However, on the app, members are able to choose a specific ethnicity and deem it as a “dealbreaker” when swiping for a match, unless members choose the “Open to All” option.

Hinge

“Hinge has a zero-tolerance policy for hate, and anyone exhibiting this behavior will be banned from our community. Now and always, if a user experiences racism, we want them to report it through our hate speech reporting option, and we will take immediate action,” a Hinge spokesperson said in a statement. “Furthermore, we have an ongoing relationship with the Anti-Defamation League to identify and remove any hate speech within our app.”

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