The UK government is to quiz Tinder and Grindr about how they are protecting children from online grooming and sexual exploitation, after dozens of child rape cases were linked to dating apps.
According to police records released following a freedom of information request by The Sunday Times, detectives have investigated “more than 30 incidents of child rape since 2015 where victims evaded age checks on dating apps only to be sexually exploited”.
The data – from just ten of the UK’s 46 police forces – revealed a further 60 instances of child sex offences including grooming, kidnapping and violent assault. The youngest victim was said to be eight years old.
Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright said the findings were “truly shocking”.
“I will be writing to these companies asking what measures they have in place to keep children safe from harm, including verifying their age,” he said. “If I’m not satisfied with their response, I reserve the right to take further action.”
He added that the Government would consider extending new legislation that will require porn sites to use age verification technology, in order to stop under-18s using dating apps.
The Guardian reports that social media companies are “facing renewed demands from the Government to protect children from harmful online content”, amid growing concerns over suicide and self-harm among teenagers.
In a statement to The Sunday Times, Grindr said: “Any account of sexual abuse or other illegal behaviour is troubling to us as well as a clear violation of our terms of service. Our team is constantly working to improve our digital and human screening tools to prevent and remove improper underage use of our app.”
A spokesperson for Tinder told the newspaper: “We utilise a network of industry-leading automated and manual moderation and review tools, systems and processes – and spend millions of dollars annually – to prevent, monitor and remove minors and other inappropriate behaviour from our app. We don’t want minors on Tinder.”