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Bye-bye ethnicity filter: Grindr dating sustains Black Lives Matter Movement with a new release

Grindr has announced that it is removing an “ethnicity filter” from its dating app in order to support the Black Lives Matter movement that inspired worldwide protests.

“We decided before we were ready to pull the plug on that, it was a conversation we wanted with our user base,” Grindr’s head of communications explained to the media. “While I believe the ethnicity filter does promote racist behaviour in the app, other minority groups use the filter because they want to quickly find other members of their minority community,” he explained.

The controversial feature, limited to those who stump up £12.99 a month for the premium version of the app, allows users to category search results based on their selected ethnicity, height, weight and other characteristics that the users can select from the online dating platform.

Grindr long maintained that the ethnicity filter was useful for minority users who wanted to find people like themselves.Image credit: Aly Song/Reuters

Initially, the app was one of the first geosocial platforms for gay men when it launched in March 2009 and has since become the largest and most popular gay mobile app in the world. It is now available on iOS and Android devices in both free and premium versions (the latter called Grindr XTRA and Grindr Unlimited).

In a statement posted on Instagram, the company announced that “We stand in solidarity with the #BlackLivesMatter movement and the hundreds of thousands of queer people of colour who log in to our app every day.

“We will continue to fight racism on Grindr, both through dialogue with our community and a zero-tolerance policy for racism and hate speech on our platform. As part of this commitment, and based on your feedback, we have decided to remove the ethnicity filter from our next release.”

Recently, Grindr’s previous feature od filter had come under intense debate because of a now-deleted tweet from the company that reads “Demand Justice. #blacklivesmatter”.

Many have condemned the online giant show of solidarity as deeply hollow when taken alongside the existence of a feature that allows users to explicitly discriminate based on race.

The company has long sustained the claim that the ethnicity filter was only imagined for minority users who wanted to find people like themselves, rather than enforce racism or any other discriminatory act.

Image credit Grindr/Variety Media

Yet, Grindr isn’t the only dating app which allows users to filter by race, but it is by far the most prominent, as it also allows members to create a personal profile and use their GPS position to place them on a cascade, where they can browse other profiles sorted by distance and be viewed by nearby and faraway members depending on one's filter settings. Selecting a profile photo in the grid view the app will display that members full profile and photos, as well as the option to chat, send a "tap," send pictures, video call, and share one's precise location.

However, the mentioned features weren’t the only ones that triggered critiques. Debates have been very prominent as racial discrimination on the app isn’t simply enforced algorithmically, either; a 2015 study of Australian users found that 96% had seen at least one profile that included some form of racial discrimination, ‘through language such as “Not attracted to Asians.”’ One in eight of those surveyed admitted they included such language.

The company announcement came on the first day of Pride month, Grindr noted. “We can still come together in the spirit of Pride, but Pride this year has an added responsibility, a shifted tone, and a new priority that will be reflected in our programming – support and solidarity for queer people of colour and the #BlackLivesMatter movement.”


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