The Australian federal government has issued a warning to popular online dating platforms, stating that unless they improve their safety standards for users, they may face stricter government regulation. Experts have highlighted numerous problematic experiences reported users of dating apps, including online sexual violence. An investigation conducted the Australian Institute of Criminology found that three-quarters of online daters have experienced some form of online sexual violence in the past five years. Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth stressed the need to address these issues in order to end violence against women and children.
The government has given the industry until the middle of next year to develop and implement a voluntary code of practice before considering the implementation of mandatory regulatory measures. During discussions with representatives from the dating app sector, experts, advocates, and law enforcement agencies earlier this year, several concerns were raised regarding the handling of complaints. Users expressed the need for clearer communication, faster response times, and more personalized support when dealing with unwanted or threatening contacts.
Kath Albury, a researcher from Swinburne University who has been investigating online dating and social media platforms, highlighted the wide range of problematic experiences reported users. These experiences can range from receiving unwanted contact or sexually explicit messages to experiencing racist or discriminatory language, stalking, and even physical harassment. Albury emphasized the importance of improved complaint handling and the incorporation of new technology to proactively identify and address bad behavior before it escalates to criminal activities.
The industry has been given an opportunity to enhance user safety through the development of new technologies. Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth believes that dating apps possess the unique ability to provide interventions and prevent criminal behavior removing individuals from online platforms or providing them with education. The government intends to allow dating apps time to make the necessary improvements but has not ruled out the possibility of passing legislation to enforce safety measures. Suggestions for improvement include implementing a register of users and ensuring that both victim-survivors and perpetrators are held accountable.
– ABC News: “Government threatens online dating platforms with regulation if they do not step up safety measures”
– Australian Institute of Criminology: Investigation Report