A Tinder user in Utah, Jade Goulart, decided recently to use her account to support Black Lives Matter. She added a to her bio and wrote, “Instant response if you sign this petition.” Goulart said she also added something like, “You mean to tell me you aren’t out protesting for human rights? Wack.”
A week later, she couldn’t sign in. Tinder had banned her.
“I felt like something was weird about that,” Goulart told Mashable over Twitter DM. “So I looked it up and saw that Tinder had come out and said that they originally were banning accounts for promoting BLM because it was against the ‘promotional purposes’ part of their terms.”
She read BBC’s coverage from early June, in which Tinder explained users were banned for fundraising for Black Lives Matter and related causes because such promotion was against its Community Guidelines.
The dating app quickly walked that back, days after people began posting about it on social media, saying it wouldn’t ban users for such activity anymore. “We have voiced our support for the Black Lives Matter movement and want our platform to be a place where our members can do the same,” a spokesperson told BuzzFeed News.
Users claim, however, that Tinder is still punishing them for their support for Black Lives Matter.
Users claim, however, that Tinder is still punishing them for their support for Black Lives Matter.
Goulart wasn’t banned until June 24, well after Tinder’s June 7 expression of support for BLM. After she contacted Tinder multiple times, the support team claimed that it didn’t have an account associated with her email address.
She isn’t alone. Across social media — Twitter and Reddit especially — Tinder users are still saying the platform banned them after writing Black Lives Matter and other phrases about racial justice and police abolition in their bios and messages.
When they contact Tinder they’re often left hanging with no explanation of how they violated the app’s or . While none of the eight users we spoke to can say for certain why they were banned, they made efforts to confirm their suspicions, quickly learning that Tinder doesn’t have a customer service phone number or a live chat.
Katie Holcomb had a similar experience to Goulart’s, shortly after paying for a membership. Her Tinder profile stated that she was anti-racist and pro-police-abolition. She was banned on June 30 while she was conversing with two matches, their messages complete with cute dog gifs.
“We were having a good time,” Holcomb wrote Mashable over Twitter DM. “Then the ban screen popped up out of nowhere, and I was locked out of my account completely.”
It’s not just in the United States. English user Chantelle Smith’s Tinder account met a similar fate. She had the term “ACAB” (all cops are bastards) in her bio and Smith told Mashable that a police officer messaged her, saying, “I hope the ACAB isn’t meant for me.”
“I saw that he had pictures in his work uniform so I replied saying ‘actually it is acab, quit your job,’” Smith said via Twitter DM. “I proceeded to tell him that all police/cops are corrupt and even if they do not singlehandedly take part in wrongful murder, the ‘good’ cops are still watching it happen.”
Smith said the man replied saying he was going to unmatch her, and she was banned from the platform a day and a half later. She believes he reported her, which resulted in her getting kicked off.
Stevie, a Tinder user in Oklahoma, was also banned after putting “ACAB” in her bio:
“I can’t think of any other reason it was banned, honestly,” Stevie, who opted to share her first name only, told Mashable.
“I cannot with certainty say why I was banned, because Tinder will not release that information to those banned. I can only make assumptions,” added Holcomb. “My profile states that I am anti-racist and that I am for abolishing the police. This seems to be a common factor in stories where women/femmes are banned and cannot pinpoint it to one individual.”
Safety is paramount to everything Tinder does, a Tinder spokesperson told Mashable, and this goes into how users are banned. There are automatic bans for spam behavior (i.e., right swiping on everyone and immediately messaging a Facebook link for matches to ‘like’), and user reports that result in bans. When a user is reported, it’s flagged in Tinder’s systems for human review.
What’s likely happening here is the latter, users reporting each other, resulting in bans. For example, a user who dislikes the Black Lives Matter movement may see someone with “BLM” in the bio and report the profile. If that pattern repeats, the user with “BLM” in their bio could end up banned.
“Our community guidelines state that we may remove accounts used for promotional purposes,” the Tinder spokesperson told Mashable. “However, we want our platform to be a place where our members can share what they’re passionate about with matches. In these cases, we encourage anyone that believes they were wrongfully removed to email firstname.lastname@example.org.”
This report-and-ban problem isn’t new. For years, trans users have spoken out about getting banned from Tinder due to transphobic users reporting their accounts. Tinder is aware of this issue and, according to its spokesperson, senior moderators look at those cases. They acknowledged that some cases “slip through the cracks” and encouraged users to email if they believe they have been wrongly banned.
In addition to trans users getting banned, women have reported getting banned from Tinder after men report their accounts for no real reason they can see other than, as Mel Magazine put it, “the crime of not being into them.”
Holcomb believes that’s what happened with her account: A number of men were offended by her profile and decided to report her. “If you are reported enough (I don’t know what “enough” is, as their protocols are not transparent),” said Holcomb, “you are automatically banned.”
For its part, Tinder says it avoids publishing specific information about its methods for kicking users off the platform so as not to help bad actors to game the system.
Holcomb paid for Tinder Gold about a month before getting banned because it allowed her to see who had already ‘liked’ her. She noticed that men who didn’t share her ideals swiped right (Tinder’s version of ‘liking’ someone), and she wondered why.
“Sometimes I would screenshot the profiles of cops in uniform or men with confederate flags and send them to my friends for a quick laugh,” she said. “My question [was] always, ‘why would this guy even want to talk to me? We fundamentally disagree.’”
She’s always left-swiped (disliked) men like this, she said. After being verbally abused on dating apps by people who don’t share her beliefs, she no longer purposefully engages with them. “But I do believe men like these, who feel rejected and alienated by women who won’t give them the time of day, seek retribution on women like me for the crime of not being into them,” said Holcomb. She believes they report these profiles to get the user banned.
“Essentially, Tinder’s protocols are anti-women/femme since they give angry, jilted men the power to ban anyone who remotely pisses them off or offends them for not being interested,” said Holocomb.
Tinder looks into the cases of banned users who email and tweet at them, the spokesperson said. If the banned users want to know why they were banned, however, they’re out of luck.
Goulart and her friend Violet, who was also banned, both attempted to contact Tinder. Violet, who opted to be identified by her first name for privacy reasons, had “swipe left if you don’t support Black Lives Matter” in her bio.
“I was actually the one to look up Tinder’s customer service for us,” said Violet. “I never heard back from them and my account is still banned.”
“I never received definitive responses from Tinder about why I was banned,” said another Tinder user who chose to remain anonymous, “which is common because their support email is essentially nonexistent as it doesn’t actually help you, just sends an automated message of their terms of service.”
The anonymous user continued, “I had no idea anyone was getting banned over BLM until I started looking around Twitter and Reddit.” A screenshot of the generic reply the user received is below.
A second anonymous user, in Arizona, had a similar experience. The user only received a response from Tinder after posting about it on Twitter, where they say they also received DMs from other people in the same boat. After the user tweeted about the issue, Tinder DMed them and reinstated the account.
Holcomb said she heard about Tinder’s boilerplate responses to other users, so she used Twitter to contact them. She tweeted the official @Tinder account almost daily starting June 30, and it replied to her on July 6; she also said she was billed for her Tinder Gold membership despite being banned for seven days. As of July 7, without explanation for the disruption of service. Tinder wouldn’t refund the purchase that went through while she was banned, telling her to take it up with Apple.
Tinder’s report-and-ban policy may be helpful in cases of spam or malice, but it’s clear regular users are getting swept up in the process. While reports are apparently reviewed by humans instead of bots, wrongful bans that appear to be triggered by spiteful users are still happening. Some, like those Mashable spoke to, did nothing except advocate for human rights. Others, like trans users, apparently did nothing but exist on the app.
Tinder insists that safety is a priority, but is it safe if the marginalized — and those fighting for them — are booted just because other users don’t want them there or dislike their views? Further, is it really a priority for the company if Tinder’s way of dealing with the problem is sending everyone to a generic email address?
Holcomb believes Tinder’s model is dangerous. “Tinder must address immediately if they want to be seen as a friendly environment for women/femmes,” she said. “Right now, their piss-poor protocols allow angry men to run the show … infuriating, yes, but painfully predictable for anyone who’s been a woman long enough.”
While men, of course, may not be the only users doing this kind of punitive reporting that results in others getting kicked off the platform, Tinder doesn’t release any information on its process, so there’s no way to know for sure.
Of the eight users we spoke to, at publication time, only Holcomb and one other anonymous user had had their accounts reinstated. Both Goulart and Violet want the dating app to make a public statement taking accountability and explaining the bans, as well as reinstating everyone’s accounts.
“We have one voice and should be able to use that freely,” said Goulart. “Seeing the true colors about how they [Tinder] feel towards BLM really upsets me especially because it is supposed to be all inclusive and that does not say all inclusive to me.”
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