Belgian scientists call for European directive against violence on dating apps

Australian research recently showed that nearly three quarters of users of online dating apps and websites experienced violence. According to a study by UC Leuven-Limburg University of Applied Sciences (UCLL) and Helplijn 1712 this is also the case in Belgium. They are now calling for a European directive.

This year, 1712 received at least 50 calls about violence involving a dating app. These include confrontations with revenge porn, date rape, sextortion and grooming.

On the occasion of 1712 Day on 17 December, the helpline, together with UCLL University College, took a close look at the five most popular apps in Flanders: Bumble, Grindr, Happn, Parship and Tinder. This showed that while apps are committed to countering violence, they could do a lot more.

Most apps throw algorithms and artificial intelligence into the fray. Moreover, all apps except Happn give the option to report violence. How to do that and what else is done with it, in turn, is unclear. It is easy to create fake profiles and remain completely anonymous. If an app then refers to assistance at all, these are often US initiatives. 1712 calls for a general policy. "We have European regulations on child seats, food labels and cosmetics to protect consumers, but not for dating apps," says Wim Van de Voorde.

Welfare minister Hilde Crevits only welcomes the awareness-raising by UCLL and 1712 and promises to alert her European colleagues to the study. "I hope all victims will find their way to Helpline 1712," she said.


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