Australia’s government said on Monday the online dating industry must improve safety standards or be forced to make changes through legislation, responding to research that says three in four Australian users experience some form of sexual violence through the platforms.
Communications Minister Michelle Rowland said popular dating companies such as Tinder, Bumble and Hinge have until June 30 to develop a voluntary code of conduct that will address user safety concerns.
The code could include improving engagement with law enforcement, supporting users at risk, improving security policies and practices and providing greater transparency about breaches, he said.
FLORIDA BOARDER BOOKED FOR FRIENDLY CASE OF CHILD LIVING AT HOME: POLICE
However, Rowland added, if safety standards do not improve sufficiently, the government will use regulations and legislation to force changes.
“What we want to do in this area is not to stifle innovation, but to balance the damages,” he told reporters.
The government is responding to Australian Institute of Criminology research published last year which found three in four users of dating apps or websites had experienced some form of sexual violence through these platforms in the five years to 2021.
“Online dating is actually the most popular way for Australians to meet new people and form new relationships,” Rowland said.
“The government is concerned about the rates of sexual harassment, abusive and threatening language, unsolicited sexual images and violence facilitated by these platforms,” he added.
The Australian Information Industry Association, which represents Australia’s information and communications technology industry but not the online dating sector, hailed the government’s approach as “very measured”.
TENNIS DEALER SUSPECTED OF SEXUALLY ASSAULTING MORE THAN 50 WOMEN SAYS INNOCENT
“This is the way government should be regulating technology,” said the association’s chief executive, Simon Bush. “Point out where there’s a problem, bring the industry together and have the industry look to see if they can fix those issues first before they pull the regulatory trigger.”
Bumble declined to comment. Tinder and Hinge did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP
Kath Albury, an online dating researcher at Melbourne’s Swinburne University of Technology, said security improvements could include a clearer sense of how quickly a user could expect feedback after reporting an unwanted or threatening contact.
“One of the things dating app users worry about is feeling that complaints fall on deaf ears, or that there’s a response that feels automated or not personally responsive at a time when they’re feeling quite insecure or distressed,” Albury told The Australian Broadcasting. Corp.