Millions of Australians use dating apps. Criminals are weaponising them

KEY POINTS
  • Australia’s eSafety commissioner says dating apps needed to take more responsibility for stamping out bad behaviour.
  • It comes ahead of a roundtable meeting that will look at ways to prevent misuse and encourage victims to come forward.
  • One participant will push for new ways to identify perpetrators and improve online reporting.
Dating apps are being weaponised by criminals, including alarming rates of revenge porn and sexual extortion, with politicians and police joining forces to stamp it out.
More than three million Australians use dating apps in the hopes of finding love, but too often discover something much darker.
eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant warns there are dangers in using the apps, particularly for women and gender-diverse people.

There was a more than 600 per cent increase in image-based abuse such as revenge porn during lockdowns.

A woman seated at a desk in front of a microphone.

eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant says there are dangers for woman using dating apps. Source: AAP / Mick Tsikas

“Through our own complaints schemes, we have certainly seen this borne out in how dating sites can be weaponised by offenders,” the commissioner told news agency AAP.

“Today, we are dealing with crippling levels of reports about sexual extortion.”
Ms Inman Grant said dating apps needed to take more responsibility for stamping out bad behaviour.
A roundtable meeting on Wednesday .

“It’s clear online dating apps and websites must do more to make their platforms and services safer and this roundtable is an important next step in finding solutions to these problems,” Ms Inman Grant said.

The meeting will look at ways to prevent misuse and encourage victims to come forward.
“One of the big problems we see is recidivism, where perpetrators are permanently banned but are still able to create a new account using a different device or email address,” the commissioner said.
The commissioner wants to stop criminals popping up on other platforms to continue to abuse women online.

“This perpetrator information should also be able to be shared with law enforcement agencies and online safety regulators, as appropriate, so investigations can be pursued,” Ms Inman Grant said.

Victoria’s Family Violence Prevention Minister Ros Spence said the state would work to stamp out all forms of sexual violence.
At the meeting, Ms Spence will push for new ways to identify perpetrators and improve online reporting.
“There are no state and territory borders online,” she said.
“This week’s meeting marks the beginning of an important conversation on an issue that clearly requires a consistent, national approach.”
Tinder has launched its dating safety guide in Australia to prevent violence against women and “educate and empower” users, after one in three singles surveyed said they weren’t fully aware of safety features on the dating app.
Three-quarters of respondents to an Australian Institute of Criminology survey reported being subjected to online sexual violence in the past five years.

One in three experienced in-person abuse from someone they met on an app, including incidents of sexual assault or coercion.

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