Dating app Bumble has changed its ‘unmatch’ feature after a Hack and Four Corners investigation uncovered sexual predators are using it to erase evidence and avoid accountability.
The unmatch function was created to give dating app users the power to delete people who they feel unsafe talking to and automatically deletes their chat history.
But the Four Corners and Hack investigation found a pattern of sex offenders using the feature on Tinder to block their victims after a rape to delete any trace of their prior communication.
A triple j Hack callout discovered the unmatch feature was also being used by offenders on other popular dating apps like Hinge and Bumble.
“Bumble is changing how it’s “unmatch” feature works in an effort to better prioritize user safety,” a spokeswoman told Hack.
“This new change will mean that Bumble users who have been unmatched with are now more easily able to report users who may have acted inappropriately.
Instead of automatically erasing the chat history, if a Bumble user gets unmatched by a perpetrator, they now have the option to retrieve the conversation.
“As part of this new update, when one user unmatches with another, the match and chat will disappear for the person who does the unmatching,” a Bumble spokeswoman said.
“For the person who has been unmatched with, the conversation only becomes greyed out in their Chat Screen.”
Bumble’s new feature also notifies users when they’ve been unmatched and gives them an option to report unsafe behaviour.
“If there were no issues with the chat, the user who was unmatched can simply opt to delete the chat with the option to remove this particular conversation from their inbox,” a spokeswoman said.
“But if the user had been acting inappropriately in violation of Bumble’s rules, the person who has been unmatched will now have the chance to report the other user more easily — even though the user disappeared and can no longer be directly messaged.
“This change preserves the conversation history so it can still be escalated to review if necessary.”
Bumble said the new feature is now available to Australian users.
‘A step in the right direction’
Dr Rosalie Gillett has researched women’s safety on Tinder at the Queensland University of Technology and told Hack that the move is a “step in the right direction” for improving user safety.
“I think that it’s possibly something that they should have done quite some time ago, but at least it shows us that they’re listening to users’ concerns, and that they’re trying to make the platform a better place for users.”
Along with improving the unmatch function, Dr Gillett said Bumble and other dating apps need to improve the dating culture on their platforms, and respond to complaints of sexual harassment or abuse more adequately.
“They need to be enforcing their terms of service. And while it might be great that they have changed this unmatch feature, they then need to be responding to user reports.”
Dr Michael Salter, the Scientia Associate Professor of Criminology at UNSW welcomed the change but said it was disappointing that the flawed unmatch function was able to exist on Bumble in the first place.
“It shouldn’t be incumbent on users or the media to flag design flaws.”
Dr Salter said more safety measures – like compulsory identity and age verification features – were needed across dating apps.
“Until there is that level of accountability, where all accounts are directly connected to a known user who’s been able to substantiate their identity to a very high standard, we are going to see these platforms misused by offenders who are looking to harm others in a premeditated way.”
Tinder’s unmatch function remains unchanged
In October, NSW Police told Hack and Four Corners that they would prefer if dating apps didn’t have systems allowing perpetrators to block their victims.
Match Group, Tinder’s parent company, changed a number of its safety policies following the Four Corners and triple j Hack investigation including updating its reporting functions.
The company did not say if it has overhauled Tinder’s problematic unmatch function, despite the investigation revealing that predators are using the tool to erase evidence and avoid accountability.
Match Group assured users that the company is able to retrieve messages if an abusive user unmatches their victim.
Bumble was started by former VP of marketing at Tinder, Whitney Wolfe Herd, after she filed a lawsuit against the company for sexual harassment. It’s one of the few major dating apps which isn’t owned by Match Group – the parent company of Tinder, Hinge, OkCupid, and Plenty of Fish among many others.
Bumble is one of Tinder’s biggest rivals and reportedly generated $240 million in revenue last year.
Watch Tinder: A predators’ playground on iview here.
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