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.
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.
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 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 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.”
The brand declined to comment on whether it plans to modify or delete its ethnicity filter.
OkCupid’s matching algorithm is partly based on responses to in-app questions related to topics such as politics, music and travel. On Monday, the brand announced it would add new questions designed to facilitate member discussions around racial equality and justice.
The brand has also pledged to donate to the ACLU, Black Girls Code, Fair Fight, and the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund.
OkCupid allows users to search potential matches based on numerous factors, including ethnicity. The brand hasn’t announced whether it plans to make changes to its search options.
Tinder posted statements on Twitter and Instagram in support of #BlackLivesMatter and a pledge to donate to the movement’s activism efforts. The swiping app also provided a link to the movement’s official website.
Daters on the app can use filters based on location, distance, age and gender identity.
Location-based gay dating app Scruff announced actions that its parent company, Perry Street Software, will take to address racism. The brand also donated to civil rights advocacy nonprofit Color of Change and the Marsha P. Johnson Institute.
The brand, which also has an ethnicity filter, acknowledged that it removed ethnicity as a default display option on profiles in 2018 and that it plans to make ethnicity not searchable in the future.
Additionally, the brand noted it will “continue aggressive moderation of content that is racist, hateful or bigoted within our apps, in keeping with our zero-tolerance policy.”