Dating apps face questions over age checks after report exposes child abuse

The UK government has said it could legislate to require age verification checks on users of dating apps, following an investigation into underage use of dating apps published by the Sunday Times yesterday. The newspaper found more than 30 cases of child rape have been investigated by police related to use of dating apps including Grindr and Tinder […]

The UK government has said it could legislate to require age verification checks on users of dating apps, following an investigation into underage use of dating apps published by the Sunday Times yesterday.

The newspaper found more than 30 cases of child rape have been investigated by police related to use of dating apps including Grindr and Tinder since 2015. It reports that one 13-year-old boy with a profile on the Grindr app was raped or abused by at least 21 men. 

The Sunday Times also found 60 further instances of child sex offences related to the use of online dating services — including grooming, kidnapping and violent assault, according to the BBC, which covered the report.

The youngest victim is reported to have been just eight years old. The newspaper obtaining the data via freedom of information requests to UK police forces.

Responding to the Sunday Times’ investigation, a Tinder spokesperson told the BBC it uses automated and manual tools, and spends “millions of dollars annually”, to prevent and remove underage users and other inappropriate behaviour, saying it does not want minors on the platform.

Grindr also reacting to the report, providing the Times with a statement saying: “Any account of sexual abuse or other illegal behaviour is troubling to us as well as a clear violation of our terms of service. Our team is constantly working to improve our digital and human screening tools to prevent and remove improper underage use of our app.”

We’ve also reached out to the companies with additional questions.

The UK’s secretary of state for digital, media, culture and sport (DCMS), Jeremy Wright, dubbed the newspaper’s investigation “truly shocking”, describing it as further evidence that “online tech firms must do more to protect children”.

He also suggested the government could expand forthcoming age verification checks for accessing pornography to include dating apps — saying he would write to the dating app companies to ask “what measures they have in place to keep children safe from harm, including verifying their age”.

“If I’m not satisfied with their response, I reserve the right to take further action,” he added.

Age verification checks for viewing online porn are due to come into force in the UK in April, as part of the Digital Economy Act.

Those age checks, which are clearly not without controversy given the huge privacy considerations of creating a database of adult identities linked to porn viewing habits, have also been driven by concern about children’s exposure to graphic content online.

Last year the UK government committed to legislating on social media safety too, although it has yet to set out the detail of its policy plans. But a white paper is due imminently.

A parliamentary committee which reported last week urged the government to put a legal ‘duty of care’ on platforms to protect minors.

It also called for more robust systems for age verification. So it remains at least a possibility that some types of social media content could be age-gated in the country in future.

Last month the BBC reported on the death of a 14-year-old schoolgirl who killed herself in 2017 after being exposed to self-harm imagery on the platform.

Following the report, Instagram’s boss met with Wright and the UK’s health secretary, Matt Hancock, to discuss concerns about the impact of suicide-related content circulating on the platform.

After the meeting Instagram announced it would ban graphic images of self-harm last week.

Earlier the same week the company responded to the public outcry over the story by saying it would no longer allow suicide related content to be promoted via its recommendation algorithms or surfaced via hashtags.

Also last week, the government’s chief medical advisors called for a code of conduct for social media platforms to protect vulnerable users.

The medical experts also called for greater transparency from platform giants to support public interest-based research into the potential mental health impacts of their platforms.

Dating apps face questions over age checks after report exposes child abuse

The UK government has said it could legislate to require age verification checks on users of dating apps, following an investigation into underage use of dating apps published by the Sunday Times yesterday. The newspaper found more than 30 cases of child rape have been investigated by police related to use of dating apps including Grindr and Tinder […]

The UK government has said it could legislate to require age verification checks on users of dating apps, following an investigation into underage use of dating apps published by the Sunday Times yesterday.

The newspaper found more than 30 cases of child rape have been investigated by police related to use of dating apps including Grindr and Tinder since 2015. It reports that one 13-year-old boy with a profile on the Grindr app was raped or abused by at least 21 men. 

The Sunday Times also found 60 further instances of child sex offences related to the use of online dating services — including grooming, kidnapping and violent assault, according to the BBC, which covered the report.

The youngest victim is reported to have been just eight years old. The newspaper obtaining the data via freedom of information requests to UK police forces.

Responding to the Sunday Times’ investigation, a Tinder spokesperson told the BBC it uses automated and manual tools, and spends “millions of dollars annually”, to prevent and remove underage users and other inappropriate behaviour, saying it does not want minors on the platform.

Grindr also reacting to the report, providing the Times with a statement saying: “Any account of sexual abuse or other illegal behaviour is troubling to us as well as a clear violation of our terms of service. Our team is constantly working to improve our digital and human screening tools to prevent and remove improper underage use of our app.”

We’ve also reached out to the companies with additional questions.

The UK’s secretary of state for digital, media, culture and sport (DCMS), Jeremy Wright, dubbed the newspaper’s investigation “truly shocking”, describing it as further evidence that “online tech firms must do more to protect children”.

He also suggested the government could expand forthcoming age verification checks for accessing pornography to include dating apps — saying he would write to the dating app companies to ask “what measures they have in place to keep children safe from harm, including verifying their age”.

“If I’m not satisfied with their response, I reserve the right to take further action,” he added.

Age verification checks for viewing online porn are due to come into force in the UK in April, as part of the Digital Economy Act.

Those age checks, which are clearly not without controversy given the huge privacy considerations of creating a database of adult identities linked to porn viewing habits, have also been driven by concern about children’s exposure to graphic content online.

Last year the UK government committed to legislating on social media safety too, although it has yet to set out the detail of its policy plans. But a white paper is due imminently.

A parliamentary committee which reported last week urged the government to put a legal ‘duty of care’ on platforms to protect minors.

It also called for more robust systems for age verification. So it remains at least a possibility that some types of social media content could be age-gated in the country in future.

Last month the BBC reported on the death of a 14-year-old schoolgirl who killed herself in 2017 after being exposed to self-harm imagery on the platform.

Following the report, Instagram’s boss met with Wright and the UK’s health secretary, Matt Hancock, to discuss concerns about the impact of suicide-related content circulating on the platform.

After the meeting Instagram announced it would ban graphic images of self-harm last week.

Earlier the same week the company responded to the public outcry over the story by saying it would no longer allow suicide related content to be promoted via its recommendation algorithms or surfaced via hashtags.

Also last week, the government’s chief medical advisors called for a code of conduct for social media platforms to protect vulnerable users.

The medical experts also called for greater transparency from platform giants to support public interest-based research into the potential mental health impacts of their platforms.

Bumble now lets you filter potential matches on Bumble Date, Bizz and BFF

Bumble has come up with a new way for its dating app and related businesses to generate revenue. The company this week launched filters – a way to sift through potential matches by a set of specific criteria. For example, Bumble Date users can now filter matches by astrological sign or relationship type, among other […]

Bumble has come up with a new way for its dating app and related businesses to generate revenue. The company this week launched filters – a way to sift through potential matches by a set of specific criteria. For example, Bumble Date users can now filter matches by astrological sign or relationship type, among other things, while those on Bumble BFF or Bumble Bizz, could filter matches by interests or industry, respectively.

The new feature is meant to save users time by limiting their selection of potential matches to those who are more relevant to their own interests.

A dating app user may want to filter out those who are only looking for casual situations, while a business user may want to filter matches based on whether they’re looking for a job, mentor, or collaborator, Bumble explains. And on Bumble’s friend-finding platform, Bumble BFF, people may want to filter for people who enjoy the same things they do – like fitness or photography.

“We’ve been working internally and with our users to create just the right mix of filters that allow for deeper, more meaningful connections and we’re very pleased with what we’ve developed,” said Alexandra Williamson, Bumble Chief of Brand, in a statement about the launch. “Whether you’re looking for a new job in media, a new mom friend or a date with a Sagittarius who loves live music, Bumble Filters enable you to tailor your experience in a way that ultimately gives you more control of the kinds of relationships you’re looking to build,” she said.

Filtering matches by specific criteria isn’t anything new to dating apps. Other more traditional dating sites, like Match and OKCupid, have offered ways to filter matches, too. But Bumble’s more direct rival Tinder has focused less on filtering and more on speed of moving through matches. It doesn’t let users specify preferences beyond some basics – like location, distance, gender and age.

Whether or not filtering actually helps in delivering a good match, however, is less clear. But it’s certainly something people want.

Today, many women on dating apps ask men for their height, for instance – so often, in fact, that men began volunteering this information on their profiles, even if the profile doesn’t have a field for height. Often, sober people don’t want to match with people who say they drink regularly. Non-smokers generally want to date the same. And so on. But over-filtering could lead to users missing out – after all, how important is the star sign, really, or whether they have pets? (Allergies notwithstanding, of course.)

On the dating side of Bumble, the new filters include height, exercise, star sign, education, drinking, smoking, pets, relationship type, family plans, religion, and political leaning.

Bumble BFFs can filter for drinking, smoking, exercise and pets, too, as well as type of friendship, relationship status, whether they have kids, or if they’re new to the area.

And Bumble Bizz users can filter by industry, networking relationship type, education, and years of experience.

Bumble hopes filters will be an additional stream of revenue for its business, which it said in September was on track for a revenue run rate to $200 million per year. Bumble now claims 46 million users.

The company says all users will receive two free filters in Bumble Date, Bumble BFF, and Bumble Bizz, but additional filters will have to be purchased through Bumble Boost – the premium upgrade that also allow you to see who liked you, extend your matches, and rematch expired connections. (Boost’s pricing varies based on the time frame – a week, a month, etc. Its weekly plan is $8.99/week, currently).

Bumble’s filters are available on both iOS and Android.

 

Coffee Meets Bagel goes anti-Tinder with a redesign focused on profiles, conversations

How do other dating apps compete with Tinder? By further distancing themselves from Tinder’s “hot-or-not” user interface design to focus on differentiating features — like conversation starters, commenting and richer profiles. Today, another anti-Tinder app is doing the same. On the heels of its $12 million Series B announced earlier this year, the oddly named […]

How do other dating apps compete with Tinder? By further distancing themselves from Tinder’s “hot-or-not” user interface design to focus on differentiating features — like conversation starters, commenting and richer profiles. Today, another anti-Tinder app is doing the same. On the heels of its $12 million Series B announced earlier this year, the oddly named app Coffee Meets Bagel is today announcing a significant makeover, which includes a change to the way the app works.

Its cleaner, lightweight and more modern design does away with bright, competing colors and other outdated features, the company says. But more notably, it has ditched the big “Pass” or “Connect” buttons — its earlier variation on Tinder’s “like” and “dislike” buttons, which nearly all dating apps have now adopted.

Instead, Coffee Meets Bagel’s new interface puts more emphasis on user profiles — showcasing more of the text, and giving users the option to “heart” the profile or now, even comment.

Before a match takes place, users can tap a new commenting button that allows them to respond to the user’s profile directly, before making a connection. This could help potential matches break the ice or even spark a connection that may not have otherwise happened.

The feature is similar, to some extent, to the commenting feature in Hinge, a relationship-focused app that allows users to directly comment on some aspect of another user’s profile.

Coffee Meets Bagel says that during its beta testing, members who sent comments to their matches had a 25 percent higher chance of getting liked back. And when comments led to conversations, there was a 60 percent increase in total messages exchanged.

Focusing on enabling better conversations is a good way for other dating apps to combat Tinder, which leaves communication up to the users to initiate, without much guidance. This leads to inboxes filled with “hi’s” and nothing much else to say. By integrating commenting into profiles, however, users will be prompted to start conversations based on something they’ve read — allowing people to connect based on more than just their photos.

The app has also revamped its Discover and Suggested sections to offer seamless scrolling and better navigation, respectively. These sections are less cluttered than before, too, in keeping with the more minimalist spirit. Even the Coffee Meets Bagel logo has gotten a makeover, where the C and B now meet in the shape of a heart.The company’s anti-Tinder stance is shaping up in its social content, too. While Tinder has more recently embraced hook-up culture and the single life with its online publication “Swipe Life,” CMB is instead creating content that’s more inspiring, it says.

“We’re taking a stance against online dating conventions, like ghosting and treating people like profiles. We’re expanding the conversation to the self: self-reflection, self-discovery, and self-love,” the company explains in its announcement.

Coffee Meets Bagel has raised just under $20 million since launching back in 2012, but it’s faced threats from Tinder, which has challenged its model head-on with Tinder Picks — a curated selection of matches for Tinder Gold subscribers, similar to Coffee Meets Bagel’s curated daily picks.

The company’s app has close to 7 million installs to date, according to data from Sensor Tower, and more than $25 million in gross revenue. The revenue is growing over time, the firm also found, with users spending approximately $900,000 in the app last month, up 30 percent from November 2017.

Tinder to roll out expanded set of gender options in India

Tinder is preparing to roll out more gender options in its app in India. The company will announce shortly that users will be able to edit their profile in order to choose a different option for their gender identity, instead of just “Man” or “Woman,” as well as toggle a setting that will display their […]

Tinder is preparing to roll out more gender options in its app in India. The company will announce shortly that users will be able to edit their profile in order to choose a different option for their gender identity, instead of just “Man” or “Woman,” as well as toggle a setting that will display their gender on their profile in Tinder’s app.

These same options have been live in the U.S. since November 2016, when the dating app added options for transgender and gender non-conforming people.

The news was published earlier today to Tinder’s blog ahead of a planned announcement, a spokesperson said. It plans to share more information later tonight, they noted. (We’ll update if that’s the case).

In the post Tinder published, the company admits it hasn’t always “had the right tools” to serve its community in the past, and is now trying to learn to be a better ally to transgender and gender non-conforming people using its app. On this front, Tinder says it’s expanding its support team and educating its staff about the issues that these communities face in India. 

Additionally, the company is opening up its support channels and inviting back users who were banned after being unfairly reported by others due to their gender. Tinder users will be able to email the company with a link to their Facebook profile in order to have their request reviewed by Tinder’s team, in order to be let back in. To what extent banned users will want to return, of course, is less clear at this point.

For the U.S. launch of the expanded gender options, Tinder had worked with organizations like GLAAD, activists and others.

In India, it worked with users and consultants, including an LGBTQ organization working for the health and human rights of the LGBTQ community since 1994, The Humsafar Trust, as well as LGBTQ author and inclusion advocate, Parmesh Shahani.

The post also pointed users to Umang, a Mumbai-based support group run by The Humsafar Trust, which offers mental health counselling, legal support, community support and events. And it linked to the clinical and counselling unit of The Humsafar Trust.

The group also runs a helpline Monday through Friday, 10 AM to 8:30 PM at +91 9930095856, and is available on Whatsapp.

“Every new person in your life expands your horizons in some way. Inclusion and acceptance drive this expansion, and we want Tinder to reflect the world that surrounds us every day. No one will ever be banned from Tinder because of their gender,” said Tinder.

The move is notable not just because of arrival of these important and inclusive features, but because of how critical the Indian market is for dating apps. So far, it seems straight Indian men have been flocking to Tinder and other apps in large numbers, but they’ve had trouble diversifying their user base. To address this problem, Tinder and others have focused efforts on recruiting the millions of young, educated India users who have left home to go live and work in cities.

Tinder – like all major tech companies – sees India as a key market, because of the rapid smartphone adoption and the population’s size. It even launched its Bumble-inspired “My Move” feature there first, back in September.

Bumble, meanwhile, has its sights on India as well, having said it plans to be in the market in full force by year-end.

Match says Bumble is dropping its $400M lawsuit, but this battle isn’t over

Bumble and Match’s ongoing legal battles are continuing today. According to a statement released by Match Group this morning, Bumble is dropping its $400 million lawsuit against Match, which had claimed Match fraudulently obtained trade secrets during acquisition talks. However, Bumble is preparing to refile its suit at the state level, we’re hearing. If you […]

Bumble and Match’s ongoing legal battles are continuing today. According to a statement released by Match Group this morning, Bumble is dropping its $400 million lawsuit against Match, which had claimed Match fraudulently obtained trade secrets during acquisition talks. However, Bumble is preparing to refile its suit at the state level, we’re hearing.

If you haven’t been following, the two companies have been doing battle in the court system for some time after Match Group failed to acquire Bumble twice — once in a deal that would have valued it at over $1 billion.

Bumble claimed Match then filed a lawsuit against it to make Bumble appear less attractive to other potential acquirers. Match’s suit claims Bumble infringed on patents around things like its use of a stack of profile cards, mutual opt-in and its swiped-based gestures — things Tinder had popularized in dating apps.

Bumble subsequently filed its own lawsuit in March 2018, this one claiming that Match used acquisition talks to fraudulently obtaining trade secrets. It says this is not a countersuit, but its own separate suit. (This is the one being discussed today by the companies.)

Match says it wasn’t served papers for Bumble’s suit. But Bumble CEO Whitney Wolfe had said they delayed serving papers to give Match a chance to settle.

After a failure to settle, Bumble announced on September 24, 2018 that it would be serving Match, and shared news of its IPO plans. The $400 million suit claims Match had asked for “confidential and trade secret information” in order to make a higher acquisition offer for Bumble, but that no subsequent offer came as result.

Match says Bumble asked the courts to drop its lawsuit just a few weeks after this announcement, and believes the whole thing is just a PR stunt around Bumble’s IPO.

Match today says it’s not opposed to the lawsuit being dropped. But it is now seeking declaratory judgements that will force these issues to be litigated in the right forums, it says.

It points out that Bumble had filed its state petition in Dallas County, rather than respond with counterclaims to Match’s suit in the Western District of Texas — “less than 100 miles from Bumble’s Austin headquarters.”

It asked the case to be transferred to federal courts in the Western District, where its IP case is pending.

Now, Match says that Bumble is asking the courts to drop its claims against Tinder’s parent company.

“We’re not opposing their request to dismiss their own claims, but we’re seeking declaratory judgements that will force these issues to be litigated in the right forums,” says a Match spokesperson. “As we say in section 132 of the amended counterclaim: ‘Match will not simply wait until Bumble decides whether or not it wants to pursue these claims – likely in connection with Bumble’s next media blitz. Match intends to litigate these baseless allegations now, and Match intends to conclusively disprove them.'”

Bumble responded this morning by saying it plans to continue to defend its business against Match.

“Match’s latest litigation filings are part of its ongoing campaign to slow down Bumble’s momentum in the market. Having tried and failed to acquire Bumble, Match now seems bent on trying to impair the very business it was so desperate to buy,” a Bumble spokesperson says. “Bumble is not intimidated and will continue to defend its business and users against Match’s misguided claims.”

It declined to comment on how, but we understand that the change from a state court system to federal courts is in play here. Bumble wanted to litigate at the state level, which means it has to dismiss its claims in the federal courts. Match could then accurately say Bumble’s lawsuit is being dropped, but that doesn’t necessarily mean Bumble’s plans have changed.

We understand that Bumble is now preparing to refile its case in the state court system, but it hasn’t done so yet.

Bumble to launch in India before year-end

On the heels of Tinder’s launch of a Bumble-like feature in India, which allows women to initiative the conversations, Bumble is today formally announcing its plans for an expansion into India. The company says it has been building up a local team in the region over the past nine months and defining its strategy. The […]

On the heels of Tinder’s launch of a Bumble-like feature in India, which allows women to initiative the conversations, Bumble is today formally announcing its plans for an expansion into India. The company says it has been building up a local team in the region over the past nine months and defining its strategy. The app will be available later this fall, with marketing spend focused on major metropolitan regions.

Given that it’s already October, Bumble’s Indian arrival is only a matter of weeks at this point. While Bumble won’t commit to an exact launch date, it would say that the launch is planned for sometime before the end of the year.

The Indian market is a critical one, given the sizable population of over 1.3 billion and their rapid adoption of mobile devices. It’s been a battleground for device makers, like Apple, Samsung and Chinese brands, and bumped the U.S. to become the world’s second largest smartphone market last fall. All major tech companies are addressing the market as well, with “liteversions  of apps designed to save data, and other India-specific offerings.

In the dating space, it’s been more challenging for apps like Tinder and others, because of India’s traditional approach to dating and courtships, which in the past has involved concerns around parental acceptance, class differences and pre-arranged marriages. But India is changing. The country’s Supreme Court has been overturning colonial-era laws, and recently decriminalized same-sex relations and adultery, for example.

That’s paved the way for a number of dating apps including an extramarital affairs app Gleeden, matchmaking app Wingman, and LGBTQ dating app Grindr, The Economic Times reported.

Tinder, meanwhile, has established itself in the country to become the highest-grossing Android app, according to App Annie data.

For Bumble’s Indian launch, the company is partnering with actor, philanthropist and entrepreneur Priyanka Chopra (who also recently became engaged to Nick Jonas.) Chopra had worked with Bumble on the launch of Bumble Bizz, its business networking feature, which arrived last October.

“It’s rare to see a brand with this level of reach and relevance maintain a commitment to their values and mission in a manner that has global impact,” said Chopra, in a statement about her involvement in the Indian launch. “I’ve always believed that investing in women is key to social transformation and economic growth, and in working with Whitney and her team over the past year, I’m inspired by the real, positive change Bumble is creating and I’m proud to have the opportunity to contribute to this movement as a partner,” she added.

The Indian version of Bumble will be available in both Hinglish and Hindi for iOS and Android and will include yet-to-be-announced security features, beyond the photo verification and profile moderation offered today.

The move to launch in India comes at a time when Bumble and Tinder are head-to-head in a bitter rivalry. Bumble is now suing Tinder parent Match Group over fraudulently obtaining trade secrets, and Match is suing Bumble over patent infringement. The two companies have been unable to work out these differences and are headed to court.

Tinder in India launches ‘My Move,’ a Bumble-like feature where women chat first

Tinder in India is now rolling out a new feature that allows women to make the first move. The setting, called “My Move,” is similar to the core feature in rival dating app Bumble, which is currently enmeshed in multiple lawsuits with Tinder parent Match Group. Match sued Bumble for patent violations following failed acquisition […]

Tinder in India is now rolling out a new feature that allows women to make the first move. The setting, called “My Move,” is similar to the core feature in rival dating app Bumble, which is currently enmeshed in multiple lawsuits with Tinder parent Match Group. Match sued Bumble for patent violations following failed acquisition attempts that would have made Bumble another Match Group brand along with Tinder, Plenty of Fish, OKCupid, Match.com, and others.

In February this year, Tinder confirmed it would later begin to test a new option that would allow women to choose when to start a conversation, but said this would not the default setting, as it is in Bumble. Instead, Tinder would allow women to decide whether or not they wanted this feature toggled on, it explained then.

The company hadn’t yet rolled out the option at the time, but said it would come in a future update as a test, ahead of a public debut.

According a report from Reuters out this morning, which TechCrunch has also confirmed, Tinder has been quietly testing “My Move” in India for several months, and intends to roll out it out worldwide if all goes well.

The company says it’s formally announcing the feature’s arrival in India today. It’s first available to users in India on iOS, Tinder tells us.

To use the feature, women go into the app’s settings to enable it with a toggle switch. Once turned on, only they can start a conversation with their matches. Previously, anyone could start the chat after a match.

“At Tinder, we are constantly evolving our platform to help create a low-pressure environment where our users feel in charge of the connections they make,” said Tinder India GM, Taru Kapoor, in a statement provided by Tinder.  “By giving our female users the ability to exclusively send the first message if and when they want to, My Move provides women the autonomy to choose how to engage with their matches and empowers them to control their experiences. We believe that true choice is letting women be who they are and empowering their choice to shape their own identity and experiences,” Kapoor added.

Tinder also notes that in India, conversations about dating are still “relatively nascent” but ideals are evolving quickly.

“Women, in particular, are seeking out ways to take charge of their romantic and social experiences – a phenomenon we see both across India’s cities and towns,” Kapoor said.

Bumble has grown to prominence by branding itself as a more female-friendly dating app, but the “women go first” feature has always felt a little bit of a gimmick.

What women tend to care about more is not who starts the chat, but how pleasant or awful that chat then becomes. In terms of dealing with straight up harassment, Bumble tends to take a public stance on banning online jerks – even going so far as to publicly shame and ban those who send nasty messages. (That is, if you believe that “Connor” was a real dude and not, say, a clever marketing stunt, which seems more likely.)

These moves – even if artificially crafted – help to set Bumble’s tone. Meanwhile, Tinder still has to deal with its “hookup app” reputation of days past. And present, if we’re being honest. Tinder is still the go-to place for on-demand sex, as HBO’s new Tinder-shaming dating app documentary Swiped points out.

In other words, Tinder simply adding in a Bumble-like feature alone won’t be that much of a threat to its rival, as the latter has positioned itself over the years to attract a different type of user. But it does go to show the extent of the bad blood between these two rivals, as Match Group has effectively taken the position that if it can’t have Bumble for itself, it will directly copy it.

Seven reasons not to trust Facebook to play cupid

This week Facebook has launched a major new product play, slotting an algorithmic dating service inside its walled garden as if that’s perfectly normal behavior for an ageing social network. Insert your [dad dancing GIF of choice] right here. Facebook getting into dating looks very much like a mid-life crisis — as a veteran social […]

This week Facebook has launched a major new product play, slotting an algorithmic dating service inside its walled garden as if that’s perfectly normal behavior for an ageing social network.

Insert your [dad dancing GIF of choice] right here.

Facebook getting into dating looks very much like a mid-life crisis — as a veteran social network desperately seeks a new strategy to stay relevant in an age when app users have largely moved on from social network ‘lifecasting’ to more bounded forms of sharing, via private messaging and/or friend groups inside dedicated messaging and sharing apps.

The erstwhile Facebook status update has long been usurped by the Snapchat (and now Instagram) Story as the social currency of choice for younger app users. Of course Facebook owns the latter product too, and has mercilessly cloned Stories. But it hardly wants its flagship service to just fade away into the background like the old fart it actually is in Internet age terms.

Not if it can reinvigorate the product with a new purpose — and so we arrive at online dating.

Facebook — or should that be ‘Datebook’ now?! — is starting its dating experiment in Colombia, as its beta market. But the company clearly has ambitious designs on becoming a major global force in the increasingly popular online dating arena — to challenge dedicated longtime players like eHarmony and OkCupid, as well as the newer breed of more specialized dating startups, such as female-led app, Bumble.

Zuckerberg is not trying to compete with online dating behemoth Tinder, though. Which Facebook dismisses as a mere ‘hook up’ app — a sub category it claims it wants nothing to do with.

Rather it’s hoping to build something more along the lines of ‘get together with friends of your friends who’re also into soap carving/competitive dog grooming/extreme ironing’ than, for e.g., the raw spank in the face shock of ‘Bang with Friends‘. (The latter being the experimental startup which tried, some six years ago, to combine Facebook and sex — before eventually exiting to a Singapore-based dating app player, Paktor, never to be heard of again. Or, well, not until Facebook decided to get into the dating game and reminded us all how we lol’d about it.)

Mark Zuckerberg’s company doesn’t want to get into anything smutty, though. Oh no, no, NO! No sex please, we’re Facebook!

Facebook Dating has been carefully positioned to avoid sounding like a sex app. It’s being flogged as a tasteful take on the online dating game, with — for instance — the app explicitly architected not to push existing friends together via suggestive matching (though you’ll just have to hope you don’t end up being algorithmically paired with any exes, which judging by Facebook’s penchant for showing users ‘photo memories’ of past stuff with exes may not pan out so well… ). And no ability to swap photo messages with mutual matches in case, well, something pornographic were to pass through.

Facebook is famously no fan of nudes. Unsurprisingly, then, nor is its buttoned up dating app. Only ‘good, old-fashioned wholesome’ text-based chat-up lines (related to ‘good clean pieces of Facebook content’) here please.

If you feel moved to text an up-front marriage proposal — feeling 100% confident in Facebook’s data scientists’ prowess in reading the social media tea leaves and plucking your future life partner out of the mix — its algorithms will probably smile on that though.

The company’s line is that dating will help fulfil its new mission of encouraging ‘time well spent’ — by helping people forge more meaningful (new) relationships thanks to the power of its network (and the data it sucks out of it).

This mission is certainly an upgrade on Facebook’s earlier and baser interest in just trying to connect every human on planet Earth to every other human on planet Earth in some kind of mass data-swinging orgy — regardless of the ethical and/or moral consequences (as Boz memorably penned it), as if it was trying to channel the horror-loving spirit of Pasolini’s Salò. Or, well, a human centipede.

But that was then. These days, in its mid teens, Facebook wants to be seen as grown up and a bit worth. So its take on dating looks a lot more ‘marriage material’ than ‘casual encounters’. Though, well, products don’t always pan out how their makers intend. So it might need to screw its courage to the sticking place and hope things don’t go south.

From the user perspective, there’s a whole other side here too though. Because given how much baggage inevitably comes with Facebook nowadays, the really burning question is whether any sensible person should be letting Mark Zuckerberg fire cupid’s arrows on their behalf?

He famously couldn’t tell malicious Kremlin propaganda from business as usual social networking like latte photos and baby pics — so what makes you think he’s going to be attuned to the subtle nuances of human chemistry?!

Here are just a few reasons why we think you should stay as far away from Facebook’s dalliance with dating as you possibly can…

  1. It’s yet another cynical data grab
    Facebook’s ad-targeting business model relies on continuous people tracking to function — which means it needs your data to exist. Simply put: Your privacy is Facebook’s lifeblood. Dating is therefore just a convenient veneer to slap atop another major data grab as Facebook tries to find less icky ways to worm its way back and/or deeper into people’s lives. Connecting singles to nurture ‘meaningful relationships’ is the marketing gloss being slicked over its latest invitation to ask people to forget how much private information they’re handing it. Worse still, dating means Facebook is asking people to share even more intimate and personal information than they might otherwise willingly divulge — again with a company whose business model relies upon tracking everything everyone does, on or offline, within its walled garden or outside it on the wider web, and whether they’re Facebook a user or not.
    This also comes at a time when users of Facebook’s eponymous social network have been showing signs of Facebook fatigue, and even changing how they use the service after a string of major privacy scandals. So Facebook doing dating also looks intended to function as a fresh distraction — to try to draw attention away from its detractors and prevent any more scales falling away from users’ eyes. The company wants to paper over growing scepticism about ad-targeting business models with algorithmic heart-shaped promises.
    Yet the real underlying passion here is still Facebook’s burning desire to keep minting money off of your private bits and bytes.
  2. Facebook’s history of privacy hostility shows it simply can’t be trusted
    Facebook also has a very long history of being outright hostile to privacy — including deliberately switching settings to make previously private settings public by default (regulatory intervention has been required to push back against that ratchet) — so its claim, with Dating, to be siloing data in a totally separate bucket, and also that information shared for this service won’t be used to further flesh out user profiles or to target people with ads elsewhere across its empire should be treated with extreme scepticism.
    Facebook also said WhatsApp users’ data would not be mingled and conjoined with Facebook user data — and, er, look what ended up happening there…!!
    ————————————————————————————————–>

    And then there’s Facebook record of letting app developers liberally rip user data out of its platform — including (for years and years) ‘friend data’. Which almost sounded cosy. But Facebook’s friends data API meant that an individual Facebook user could have their data sucked out without even agreeing to a particular app’s ToS themselves. Which is part of the reason why users’ personal information has ended up all over the place — and in all sorts of unusual places. (Facebook not enforcing its own policies, and implementing features that could be systematically abused to suck out user data are among some of the many other reasons.)
    The long and short history of Facebook and privacy is that information given to it for one purpose has ended up being used for all sorts of other things — things we likely don’t even know the half of. Even Facebook itself doesn’t know which is why it’s engaged in a major historical app audit right now. Yet this very same company now wants you to tell it intimate details about your romantic and sexual preferences? Uhhhh, hold that thought, truly.

  3. Facebook already owns the majority of online attention — why pay the company any more mind? Especially as dating singles already have amazingly diverse app choice…
    In the West there’s pretty much no escape from Facebook Inc. Not if you want to be able to use the social sharing tools your friends are using. Network effects are hugely powerful for that reason, and Facebook owns not just one popular and dominant social network but a whole clutch of them — given it also bought Instagram and WhatsApp (plus some others it bought and just closed, shutting down those alternative options). But online dating, as it currently is, offers a welcome respite from Facebook.
    It’s arguably also no accident that the Facebook-less zone is so very richly served with startups and services catering to all sorts of types and tastes. There are dating apps for black singlesmatchmaking services for Muslims; several for Jewish people; plenty of Christian dating apps; at least one dating service to match ex-pat Asians; another for Chinese-Americansqueer dating apps for women; gay dating apps for men (and of course gay hook up apps too), to name just a few; there’s dating apps that offer games to generate matches; apps that rely on serendipity and location to rub strangers together via missed connections; apps that let you try live video chats with potential matches; and of course no shortage of algorithmic matching dating apps. No singles are lonely for dating apps to try, that’s for sure.
    So why on earth should humanity cede this very rich, fertile and creative ‘stranger interaction’ space, which caters to singles of all stripes and fancies, to a social network behemoth — just so Facebook can expand its existing monopoly on people’s attention?
    Why shrink the luxury of choice to give Facebook’s business extra uplift? If Facebook Dating became popular it would inexorably pull attention away from alternatives — perhaps driving consolidation among a myriad of smaller dating players, forcing some to band together to try to achieve greater scale and survive the arrival of the 800lb Facebook gorilla. Some services might feel they have to become a bit less specialized, pushed by market forces to go after a more generic (and thus larger) pool of singles. Others might find they just can’t get enough niche users anymore to self-sustain. The loss of the rich choice in dating apps singles currently enjoy would be a crying shame indeed. Which is as good a reason as any to snub Facebook’s overtures here.
  4. Algorithmic dating is both empty promise and cynical attempt to humanize Facebook surveillance
    Facebook typically counters the charge that because it tracks people to target them with ads its in the surveillance business by claiming people tracking benefits humanity because it can serve you “relevant ads”. Of course that’s a paper thin argument since all display advertising is something no one has chosen to see and therefore is necessarily a distraction from whatever a person was actually engaged with. It’s also an argument that’s come under increasing strain in recent times, given all the major scandals attached to Facebook’s ad platform, whether that’s to do with socially divisive Facebook ads, or malicious political propaganda spread via Facebook, or targeted Facebook ads that discriminate against protected groups, or Facebook ads that are actually just spreading scams. Safe to say, the list of problems attached to its ad targeting enterprise is long and keeps growing.
    But Facebook’s follow on claim now, with Dating and the data it intends to hold on people for this matchmaking purpose, is it has the algorithmic expertise to turn a creepy habit of tracking everything everyone does into a formula for locating love.
    So now it’s not just got “relevant” ads to sell you; it’s claiming Facebook surveillance is the special sauce to find your Significant Other!

    Frankly, this is beyond insidious. (It is also literally a Black Mirror episode — and that’s supposed to be dysfunctional sci-fi.) Facebook is moving into dating because it needs a new way to package and sell its unpleasant practice of people surveillance. It’s hoping to move beyond its attempt at normalizing its business line (i.e. that surveillance is necessary to show ads that people might be marginally more likely to click on) — which has become increasingly problematic as its ad platform has been shown to be causing all sorts of knock-on societal problems — by implying that by letting Facebook creep on you 24/7 it could secure your future happiness because its algorithms are working to track down your perfect other half — among all those 1s and 0s it’s continuously manhandling.
    Of course this is total bunkum. There’s no algorithmic formula to determine what makes one person click with another (or not). If there was humans would have figured it out long, long ago — and monetized it mercilessly. (And run into all sorts of horrible ethical problems along the way.)
    Thing is, people aren’t math. Humans cannot be made to neatly sum to the total of their collective parts and interests. Which is why life is a lot more interesting than the stuff you see on Facebook. And also why there’s a near infinite number of dating apps out there, catering to all sorts of people and predilections.
    Sadly Facebook can’t see that. Or rather it can’t admit it. And so we get nonsense notions of ‘expert’ algorithmic matchmaking and ‘data science’ as the underpinning justification for yet another dating app launch. Sorry but that’s all just marketing.
    The idea that Facebook’s data scientists are going to turn out to be bullseye hitting cupids is as preposterous as it is ridiculous. Like any matchmaking service there will be combinations thrown up that work and plenty more than do not. But if the price of a random result is ceaseless surveillance the service has a disproportionate cost attached to it — making it both an unfair and an unattractive exchange for the user. And once again people are being encouraged to give up far more than they’re getting in return.
    If you believe that finding ‘the one’ will be easier if you focus on people with similar interests to you or who are in the same friend group there’s no shortage of existing ‘life avenues’ you can pursue without having to resort to Facebook Dating. (Try joining a club. Or going to your friends’ parties. Or indeed taking your pick from the scores of existing dating apps that already offer interest-based matching.)
    Equally you could just take a hike up a mountain and meet your future wife at the top (as one couple I know did). Safe to say, there’s no formula to love. And thankfully so. Don’t believe anyone trying to sell you a dating service with the claim their nerdtastic data scientists will hook you up good and proper.
    Facebook’s chance of working any ‘love magic’ will be as good/poor as the next app-based matchmaking service. Which is to say it will be random. There’s certainly no formula to be distilled beyond connecting ‘available to date’ singles — which dating apps and websites have been doing very well for years and years and years. No Facebook dates necessary.
    The company has little more to offer the world of online dating than, say, OkCupid, which has scale and already combines the location and stated interests of its users in an attempt to throw up possible clicks. The only extra bit is Facebook’s quasi-bundling of Events into dating, as a potential avenue to try and date in a marginally more informal setting than agreeing to go on an actual date. Though, really, it just sounds like it might be more awkward to organize and pull off.
    Facebook’s generic approach to dating is also going to offer much less for certain singles who benefit from a more specialized and tailored service (such as a female-focused player like Bumble which has created a service to cater to women’s needs; or, indeed, any of the aforementioned community focused offerings cited above which help people meet other likeminded singles).
    Facebook appears to believe that size matters in dating. And seems to want to be a generic giant in a market that’s already richly catering to all sorts of different communities. For many singles that catch-all approach is going to earn it a very hard left swipe.
  5. Dating takes resource and focus away from problems Facebook should actually be fixing
    Facebook’s founder made ‘fixing Facebook’ his personal priority this year. Which underlines quite how many issues the company has smashing through its plate. We’re not talking little bug fixes. Facebook has a huge bunch of existentially awful hellholes burning through its platform and punching various human rights in the process. This is not at all trivial. Some really terrible stuff has been going on with its platforms acting as the conduit.
    Earlier this year, for instance, the UN blasted Facebook saying its platform had became a “beast” in Myanmar — weaponized and used to accelerate ethnic violence against the Rohingya Muslim minority.
    Facebook has admitted it did not have enough local resource to stop its software being used to amplify ethnic hate and violence in the market. Massacres of Rohingya refuges have been described by human rights organizations as a genocide.
    And it’s not an isolated instance. In the Philippines the country has recently been plunged into a major human rights crisis — and the government there, which used Facebook to help get elected, has also been using Facebook to savage its critics at the same time as carrying out thousands of urban killings in a bloody so-called ‘war on drugs’.
    In India, Facebook’s WhatsApp messaging app has been identified as a contributing factor in multiple instances of mob violence and killings — as people have been whipped up by lies spread like lightning via the app.
    Set against such awful problems — where Facebook’s products are at very least not helping — we now see the company ploughing resource into expanding into a new business area, and expending engineering resource to build a whole new interface and messaging system (the latter to ensure Facebook Dating users can only swap texts, and can’t send photos or videos because that might be a dick pic risk).
    So it’s a genuine crying shame that Facebook did not pay so much close attention to goings on in Myanmar — where local organizations have long been calling for intelligent limits to be built in to its products to help stop abusive misuse.
    Yet Facebook only added the option to report conversations in its Messenger app this May
    So the sight of the company expending major effort to launch a dating product at the same time as it stands accused of failing to do enough to prevent its products from being conduits for human rights abuses in multiple markets is ethically uncomfortable, to say the least.
    Prospective users of Facebook Dating might therefore feel a bit queasy to think that their passing fancies have been prioritized by Zuckerberg & co over and above adding stronger safeguards and guardrails to the various platforms they operate to try to safeguard humans from actual death in other corners of the globe.
  6. By getting involved with dating, Facebook is mixing separate social streams
    Talking of feeling queasy, with Facebook Dating the company is attempting to pull off a tricky balancing act of convincing existing users (many of whom will already be married and/or in a long term relationship) that it’s somehow totally normal to just bolt on a dating layer to something that’s supposed to be a generic social network.
    All of a sudden a space that’s always been sold — and traded — as a platonic place for people to forge ‘friendships’ is suddenly having sexual opportunity injected into it. Sure, the company is trying to keep these differently oriented desires entirely separate, by making the Dating component an opt-in feature that lurks within Facebook (and where (it says) any activity is siloed and kept off of mainstream Facebook (at least that’s the claim)). But the very existence of Facebook Dating means anyone in a relationship who is already on Facebook is now, on one level, involved with a dating app company.
    Facebook users may also feel they’re being dangled the opportunity to sign up to online dating on the sly — with the company then committed itself to being the secret-keeping go-between ferrying any flirtatious messages they care to send in a way that would be difficult for their spouse to know about, whether they’re on Facebook or not.
    How comfortable is Facebook going to be with being a potential aid to adultery? I guess we’ll have to wait and see how that pans out. As noted above, Facebook execs have — in the past — suggested the company is in the business of ‘connecting people, period’. So there’s perhaps a certain twisted logic working away as an undercurrent and driving its impulse to push for ever more human connections. But the company could be at risk of applying its famous “it’s complicated” relationship status to itself with the dating launch — and then raining complicated consequences down upon its users as a result. (As, well, it so often seems to do in the name of expanding its own business.)
    So instead of ‘don’t mix the streams’, with dating we’re seeing Facebook trying to get away with running entirely opposite types of social interactions in close parallel. What could possibly go wrong?! Or rather what’s to stop someone in the ‘separate’ Facebook dating pool trying to Facebook-stalk a single they come across there who doesn’t responded to their overtures? (Given Facebook dating users are badged with their real Facebook names there could easily be user attempts to ‘cross over’.)
    And if sentiments from one siloed service spill over into mainstream Facebook things could get very messy indeed — and users could end up being doubly repelled by its service rather than additionally compelled. The risk is Facebook ends up fouling not feathering its own nest by trying to combine dating and social networking. (This less polite phrase also springs to mind.)
  7. Who are you hoping to date anyway?!
    Outside emerging markets Facebook’s growth has stalled. Even social networking’s later stage middle age boom looks tapped out. At the same time today’s teens are not at all hot for Facebook. The youngest web users are more interested in visually engaging social apps. And the company will have its work cut out trying to lure this trend-sensitive youth crowd. Facebook dating will probably sound like a bad joke — or a dad joke — to these kids.
    Going up the age range a bit, the under ~35s are hardly enamoured with Facebook either. They may still have a profile but also hardly think Facebook is cool. Some will have reduced their usage or even taken a mini break. The days of this age-group using Facebook to flirt with old college classmates are as long gone as sending a joke Facebook poke. Some are deleting their Facebook account entirely — and not looking back. Is this prime dating age-group suddenly likely to fall en masse for Facebook’s love match experiment? It seems doubtful.
    And it certainly looks like no accident Facebook is debuting Dating outside the US. Emerging markets, which often have young, app-loving populations, probably represent its best chance at bagging the critical mass of singles absolutely required to make any dating product even vaguely interesting.
    But in its marketing shots for the service Facebook seems to be hoping to attract singles in the late twenties age-range — dating app users who are probably among the ficklest, trickiest people for Facebook to lure with a late-stage, catch-all and, er, cringey proposition.
    After that, who’s left? Those over 35s who are still actively on Facebook are either going to be married — and thus busy sharing their wedding/baby pics — and not in the market for dating anyway; or if they are single they may be less inclined towards getting involved with online dating vs younger users who are now well accustomed to dating apps. So again, for Facebook, it looks like diminishing returns up here.
    And of course a dating app is only as interesting and attractive as the people on it. Which might be the most challenging hurdle for Facebook to make a mark on this well-served playing field — given its eponymous network is now neither young nor cool, hip nor happening, and seems to be having more of an identity crisis with each passing year.
    Perhaps Facebook could carve out a dating niche for itself among middle-age divorcees — by offering to digitally hand-hold them and help get them back into the dating game. (Although there’s zero suggestion that’s what it’s hoping to do with the service it debuted this week.)
    If Zuckerberg really wants to bag the younger singles he seems most interested in — at least judging by Facebook Dating’s marketing — he might have been better off adding a dating stream to Instagram.
    I mean, InstaLovegram almost sounds like it could be a thing.

I watched HBO’s Tinder-shaming doc ‘Swiped’ so you don’t have to

Have you ever wanted to see one of your “hate-reads” stretched out to feature-film length? If so, you’ll want to watch HBO’s new documentary, “Swiped,” which takes a depressing, trigger-inducing and damning look at online dating culture, and specifically Tinder’s outsized influence in the dating app business. The film evolved from journalist Nancy Jo Sales’ […]

Have you ever wanted to see one of your “hate-reads” stretched out to feature-film length? If so, you’ll want to watch HBO’s new documentary, “Swiped,” which takes a depressing, trigger-inducing and damning look at online dating culture, and specifically Tinder’s outsized influence in the dating app business.

The film evolved from journalist Nancy Jo Sales’ 2015 Vanity Fair piece, entitled “Tinder and the Dawn of the ‘Dating Apocalypse,” which was criticized at the time for its narrow focus on 20-something, largely heterosexual women in an urban setting. The piece had extrapolated out their personal dating struggles and turned them into condemnation of the entire online dating market.

But the VF piece was actually more memorable for Tinder’s response.

The company – well, it went off.

In a 30-tweet tirade (that’s still some of the best of the internet, mind you), the company lost its ever-lovin’ mind on both Vanity Fair and Nancy Jo Sales alike.

One sample tweet from the Tinder meltdown: “@VanityFair: Little know fact: sex was invented in 2012 when Tinder was launched.”

Ah, take that! Right?! Right?

Despite the complete PR buffoonery, Tinder had a point.

The VF piece wasn’t representative of Tinder’s larger user base, only a sliver. And the complaints from a few users couldn’t be used to make a point about the entire industry.

Besides, what exactly was unique about those complaints?

Was it truly swipe culture to blame for the mistakes made in dating and sexual experimentation, when you’re young? Don’t you at least once or twice have to choose the wrong person, so you can begin to triangulate on what’s right?

Unfortunately, the film doesn’t fully correct the article’s problem in terms of its demographic samplings.

It still mostly relies on anecdotes told by (usually drunk) 20-somethings, which are then spliced up by the occasional expert commentary.

And the subjects are often really, really drunk.

There’s one scene where a young woman is so wasted, it’s hard to believe she gave the filmmaker informed consent to use her footage.

(Not the one below. But I’m pretty sure those Solo cups aren’t filled with lemonade.)

Meanwhile, the expert commentary has its highlights, too.

There’s one expert – April Alliston, a Princeton professor – who breastfeeds her baby on camera while giving her commentary on pornography. (Oh yes, please discuss rape porn while the baby suckles your breast, thank you very much.)

Look how cool and progressive we are! is the unspoken subtext, even as the film continues to subtly vilify casual sex among young adults, or act as if Tinder itself is somehow entirely responsible for the callous behavior of its users.

Unlike the magazine article, the film does slightly expand its cast of characters to include gender non-conforming and other LGBTQ people, more people of color, and – well, it’s Tinder! – a couple interested in threesomes.

But the general slice of the Tinder user base interviewed remains young, urban, and, in some cases, fairly vapid.

As for “Swiped’s” milieu,  much of its action is in the city.

Specifically, scene after scene in the film is labeled, “New York, New York,” as if the experiences of people in this competitive and unique market – a place where leveling up to something better is a way of life – could somehow represent a universal truth applicable to all of Tinder’s estimated 50 million users.

The film does, however, cover nearly everything that’s awful about dating apps – from young men ordering girls to their door as if it’s a meal from Seamless, to the overwhelming sense of dread and the depression that results from being on dating apps – or really, the internet itself – for too long.

There are also scenes touching nearly every Tinder trope:

The sending of dick pics; men posing with fish in their profile photos; that supposedly happy couple “looking for a third” (spoiler alert: they’re not happy and are broken up by end of film); the “DTF?” come-ons; and basically every other reason people delete these apps in the first place.

Where the film is somewhat stronger is when it talks about the very real psychological tricks Tinder and other dating apps have adopted to keep users engaged and addicted to swiping.

Tinder, it’s pointed out, uses gamification techniques: Brain tricks like intermittent variable rewards that are proven to work on pigeons, no less!

You see, if you don’t know when you’re getting the reward – a treat, a match, etc. – you end up playing the game more often, the psychologists explain.

One of the better quotes on this topic comes from Tinder co-founder and CSO Jonathan Badeen, where he essentially compares the act of using Tinder to doing drugs or gambling.

“We have some of these game-like elements, where you almost feel like you’re being rewarded,” says Baden. “It kinda works like a slot machine, where you’re excited to see who the next person is, or, hopefully, you’re excited to see ‘did I get the match?’ and get that ‘It’s a Match’ screen? It’s a nice little rush,” he enthuses.

Yeah.

Yikes.

Of course, these are concerns that extend beyond the online dating app industry.

Social media apps, in general, have been more recently called out for similar behaviors – that is, for leveraging psychological loopholes to addict their users in unhealthy ways.

The ramifications of our smartphone addictions are only now being examined, in fact.

Apple and Google, for example, have just launched screen time controls aimed at giving us a chance at fighting back at the dangerous dark patterns and brain hacks these apps use. (Apple’s toolset is only arriving in iOS 12 – which is just now getting to the public.)

It’s certainly fair to criticize companies like Tinder and Bumble for bringing these gamification tricks into delicate areas like those where the focus is supposedly on forming real human connections or “finding love.” But it’s disingenuous to act as if this is something unique to Tinder (et al) and not just, generally, the god-awful state of the tech industry as a whole at present.

The only other worthwhile part to “Swiped” is where the film points out that no one knows if any of these addictive apps actually succeed in helping people find real relationships.

Dating app companies don’t have any data on how many lasting relationships result from their app’s usage, “Swiped” finds. It’s odd, as tech companies are usually data hungry beasts. And success rates would seemingly be the exact kind of metric a company claiming to solve issues around relationship-finding would want to track.

Though everyone today seems to know someone who “met on an app,” it’s unclear what portion of the user base is actually finding long-term success with those relationships. The dating app companies have no idea, either, the film proclaims.

Asked how many people who met on Tinder got married or ended up in committed relationships, Jessica Carbino, a sociologist at Tinder, tells the filmmaker: “we do not have that information available.” She then adds she’s “inundated with emails” from Tinder users getting married and having babies.

(She also hilariously defends casual hookups as something that people go to church to pursue, too, so don’t blame Tinder for that! I mean, sometimes this film is just comedy gold, I swear.)

Of course, with a user base in the tens of millions, a good handful of happy emails should be expected. It’s definitely not evidence that Tinder is any better than the alternative – bars, blind dates, introductions through friends, etc.

The film then drives this particular point home by citing user studies by both Tinder and the more relationship-focused dating app Hinge, which seem indicate that swiped-based dating doesn’t work.

“80% of Tinder users are looking for a serious relationship,” says one Tinder survey. The text then fades, and the next statistic, this time from Hinge, appears.

“81% of users have never found a long-term relationship on any swiping app,” it says.

By the end of the film, it’s clear you’re expected to delete Tinder and all the other dating apps off your phone and get on with your life.

However, as with Facebook and social media, backlash doesn’t mean abandonment.

Tinder’s swipe culture is the new normal. It’s right to hold it accountable in areas it can do better – reporting and abuse, for example – but it’s not going away anytime soon.