The Australian government has warned the online dating industry that they must strengthen policies to improve safety standards or be forced to do so through legislation.
The warning to dating apps comes in the wake of research by the Australian Institute of Criminology that found three out of four users of dating apps or websites had experienced some form of sexual violence through these platforms in the five years through 2021.
Communications minister Michelle Rowland said dating apps such as Tinder, Bumble and Hinge have until June 30 to develop a voluntary code of conduct that addresses user safety concerns.
Ms Rowland added if safety standards are not sufficiently improved, the Australian government will use regulation and legislation to force change.
Ms Rowland said: “What we want to do in this sector is not stifle innovation, but balance the harms.”
The beefed-up code could include improving engagement with law enforcement, supporting at-risk users, improving safety policies and practices, and providing greater transparency about harms, Ms Rowland said.
She added: “Online dating is actually the most popular way for Australians to meet new people and to form new relationships.
“The government is concerned about rates of sexual harassment, abusive and threatening language, unsolicited sexual images and violence facilitated by these platforms.”
The Australian Information Industry Association, which represents Australia’s information and communications technology industry but not the online dating sector, welcomed the government’s approach.
It dubbed the move “very measured”.
The organisation’s chief executive Simon Bush said: “That’s the way the government should regulate technology.
“Point out where there’s an issue, get the industry together and get the industry to look to see if they can resolve these issues first before pulling the regulatory trigger.”
Bumble declined to comment. Tinder and Hinge did not immediately respond to requests for comment.