Tinder and Grindr are reportedly about to face an inquiry over their age policies.
The failure of tech giants to enforce adult age limits on dating apps is placing a generation of children at risk of grooming and sexual exploitation, a Sunday Times investigation has revealed.
After the report, the UK government has said it could legislate to require age verification checks on users of dating apps, following an investigation into underage use of dating apps published by the Sunday Times on Monday.
The UK’s Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Jeremy Wright wants to know what tools Tinder and Grindr had in place to “keep children safe from harm,” and vowed “further action” if the dating services didn’t provide adequate answers.
Sunday Times’ report revealed dozens of incidents of sexual assault and exploitation against children who managed to sign up for the app. More than 30 cases of child rape have been investigated by police related to the use of dating apps including Grindr and Tinder since 2015. It reports that one 13-year-old boy with a profile on the Grindr app was raped or abused by at least 21 men.
The report also found another 60 cases involving sexual exploitation of child sex offences related to the use of online dating services — including grooming, kidnapping and violent assault. The youngest victim is reported to have been just eight years old.
It’s not certain how the UK would crack down if it found negligence, but there is a template already in place. The country is rolling out a mandatory age verification system for porn, and it wouldn’t be surprising if it pressed for a similar requirement for dating apps.