MORE than 58 crimes across Greater Manchester have been linked to the use of dating apps Tinder and Grindr.
Former Manchester MP John Leech has launched a campaign to force dating apps such as Tinder and Grindr to display clear safety notices to inform their users of the dangers of using their sites.
A Freedom of Information enquiry revealed that the police have linked 500 crimes to the use of Tinder and Grindr in the UK. At least 58 crimes have been linked to both Tinder and Grindr in Greater Manchester, including murder, rape and child abuse.
The MP was shocked that Greater Manchester was among the highest in committing crimes related to the two dating apps.
He said: “I am extremely concerned to see that Manchester has one of the highest numbers of incidents, and in what I would desperately like to be seen as a safe and welcoming city, these numbers are distressingly high and must be tackled immediately.”
Mr Leech who is heading the campaign wrote to the two leading applications after discovering that neither provided any notice of safety before allowing users to speak to complete strangers.
Tinder was launched as a smartphone app in 2012. It is available to download in 196 countries and in over 30 different languages. Tinder is most popular with young people between the ages of 16-24 years old, making up 38 per cent of all Tinder users in 2014. However, last year, Tinder raised the minimum age from 13 to 18 after concerns were raised by children’s charities.
Grindr is the world’s number one gay social networking app with over 2 million users a day. They state their values on their website: “We strive to create a safe space where all are welcome to be who they are and express themselves without judgement.
In order for everyone to have the best time possible, we have a system of digital and human screening tools to protect our users from actions and behaviours that endanger them and go against what we’re about. And while we constantly evolve these tools as our audience grows, we also rely on our community to play nice and watch each other’s backs.”
Despite this, out of the 28 incidents related to Grindr, four resulted in rape, with a further ten other sexual offences. Theft, non-sexual violence and drug trafficking were also reported.
A much higher number of 13 out of the 30 reported Tinder incidents resulted in rape, with other violent offences making up a further 15.
Mr Leech is very passionate about the apps taking responsibility: “In an evolving and increasingly digital age where many people have found their perfect match through these dating apps, the real dangers of online dating must also be highlighted to ensure that these horrific and life-shattering crimes are avoided.”
More than 60 million people use the two dating apps with billions of matches and connections made to date. With so many people using apps like these daily, they are exposed to strangers with many different agendas.
Researchers Sumter, Vandenbosch, and Ligtenberg collected responses last year from 266 current or former dating app users between the ages of 18 and 30 and found that people mostly use dating apps like Tinder and Grindr to meet new people for hook-up sex but also for validation, ease of communication, excitement and self-worth. All of which can make many people very vulnerable which strangers can take advantage of.
Part of Mr Leech’s campaign is for the apps to clearly display the dangers that surround dating apps so that users are well informed of the possibilities that could occur.
He said: “I want our campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of dating apps and help bring sex education up to date. We must ensure that these companies are held responsible for their lapse in care.
“These dating apps provide a service and all I’m asking is for them to improve that service. I’m not asking for them to redesign their whole app or anything dramatic, I am simply asking them to increase their safety of their users.
Tinder and Grindr can’t refuse our calls to implement safety notices and then shrug off all responsibility when we raise complaints about attacks and assaults by people they meet through these apps.”
An increase in education surrounding sex, health and relationships for young people is extremely important in reducing crimes related to dating apps.
Jessica Turner a 20-year-old, psychology student from Manchester, has had a Tinder profile for a year. She explains her experience with Tinder: “The figures are definitely worrying; you don’t really realise the dangers when you’re using it day-to-day. I have met some of my matches, but it has always been in a public place and I’ve told someone where I’m going before I leave.
“I do think it’s important to educate young people from an early age about being safe online/on dating apps, you can never be too careful.”
Mr Leech, urging the public to get involved in his campaign, said: “I would love for the public to get involved with our campaign! We have a petition where you can support our call on Tinder and Grindr, we also have a standard letter on that page which people can copy and paste and email to Tinder and Grindr. They get in contact with me through Facebook, Twitter or my website to discuss anything further.”
Tinder and Grindr did not reply to requests for a response to the campaign.