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Grindr’s Commitment to Addressing Online Harms

Every employee at Grindr shares the commitment to keeping our users safe, and we’re constantly working to develop, refine, and enforce the policies and procedures that relate to the safe and secure use of our platform.
Bill Shafton
&
VP, Business & Legal Affairs
September 20, 2021
June 22, 2024
6
min. read
Grindr’s Commitment to Addressing Online Harms
Table of Contents

The Grindr app was born from the desire to create a fun, open, and safe platform for the adult queer community to find each other. Grindr’s founder, Joel Simhkai, had high hopes that the app would take off, but the demand for social connection within our community exceeded anyone’s wildest expectations. That simple idea from 12+ years ago has grown into an integral part of how the LGBTQ+ community connects and thrives throughout the world.

As part of that explosive growth, some five years ago I joined Grindr as its inaugural in-house lawyer. I am proud to work at a company that connects millions of people every day wherever they are on the globe. Every employee at the company shares the commitment to keeping our users safe, but there are specific teams—legal, privacy, support, moderation, the trust and safety team and our security engineers—who work daily on ways to develop, refine, and enforce the policies and procedures that relate to the safe and secure use of our platform by adults. From day one, this has been a key area of attention for me.

How We Protect Our Community and Vulnerable Populations

Grindr is a service for adults who agree to our Terms, Community Guidelines, and Privacy Policy. In both the Google and Apple app stores, our app has the most restrictive usage category, Mature 17+, allowing parents a simple and complete way to limit access to our app. Additionally, users must affirm that they are a legal adult, agree to be bound by Grindr’s policies, and provide their date of birth.

In addition to these policies and an industry-standard age gate at account creation, Grindr takes additional steps to support platform authenticity, and user safety, and help address circumstances if any bad actors make it onto the platform. Chief among them:

  • Grindr’s moderation team reviews all user profile images before they can be seen on the service for compliance with our Community Guidelines. To eliminate any chance of misunderstanding, we do not allow images of minors, even if they are part of a family photo, for example. Additionally, images of violence, hate speech or other offensive conduct are all banned from the platform.
  • Grindr provides our users with in-app reporting tools and an online Help Center as avenues to quickly report potential misconduct. The Grindr user community provides some of our most important input to help us enforce our Community Guidelines.
  • Grindr’s Trust and Safety team promptly reviews user reports and, where appropriate, bans the offending user or removes the illicit content.
  • Grindr has developed and continues to refine the proprietary technology tools that help us proactively flag potential underage users, bad actors, and/or illicit content. We are constantly evaluating new technology to assist us with this work.
  • Our Trust & Safety team is trained to identify, escalate, and, where appropriate, report certain child endangerment scenarios to the law enforcement in partnership with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.    
  • Like many social media companies, we know the potential for misuse—and even illicit use—is real. Our team works closely with law enforcement to support heir investigations through our responses to legal processes such as subpoenas.

With the hope of supporting our community’s well-being online and off, Grindr publishes (in 5 languages) a Holistic Security Guide to help empower our users with ways to stay safe both online and when meeting someone new in person for the first time.

Our Work Is Never Done

We recognize that this work is never done. That’s why we focus on hiring smart, dedicated people who are good at what they do and have key experience working on unique platforms like ours. As just one example, Alice Hunsburger and Grindr’s Customer Experience team handle many of the types of difficult matters discussed in this blog.  In just the past year, Alice and team have refreshed our Help Center, Community Guidelines, Safety Tips and moderation policies, and implemented improvements to better and quickly address our users’ concerns as we continue to grow.

Through these and other efforts, we work every day to address the ever-evolving challenges of online life. If Grindr uncovers a violation of a term of service or community standard, we take prompt action. For example, if we suspect that an underage user has accessed our platform, the account is promptly banned. Should a parent contact Grindr via email ([email protected]) regarding their underage child, we work with the parent to identify and permanently ban the profile in question. Grindr also cooperates with law enforcement in connection with the investigation of these difficult situations, and we submit reports to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children if the circumstances involve child exploitation and abuse.  

Moderation in this digital age raises many challenges, especially as bad actors have become increasingly sophisticated. And we welcome the help of parents and other adults, including our users, in helping keep minors off of the platform. Grindr is made available on the Apple and Google app stores but is listed in the most restrictive category of apps. As a parent myself, I, along with the entire company, encourage you to enforce the parental controls on the app store and on your minor’s device, including to control which apps they may download. These features are designed to prevent underage access to content-restricted apps like Grindr, and they are an effective first-line of defense against underage access.    

No company policy or enforcement effort can completely eliminate the ability of a motivated individual to take an action inconsistent with our Terms. But we continue to take steps to advance our practices. For Grindr, an important next step is partnering with Thorn, an industry leader in protecting minors from online harms. Through the integration of Safer’s perceptual hashing and machine learning algorithms, we will help prevent the transmission of child sexual exploitation and abuse materials. We will also continue to explore and implement additional mechanisms to enhance the safety and security of the Grindr platform.

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Grindr’s Global Advocacy on Behalf of Our Most Vulnerable Community Members

With users in virtually every country in the world, we recognize the unique perspective and voice we can bring to these important global conversations. As part of our outreach with UK officials in connection with the Online Safety Bill, we noted that the app stores serve as the gatekeeper of age-appropriate apps and, often with the most personal information about app users, they have an opportunity to assume an enhanced leadership position by providing a single point of age verification on behalf of the thousands of downstream apps. App stores could centralize input from all apps to help the downstream app developers identify and remove underage users from adult-focused platforms, especially as more users utilize the single sign-on functionality provided by the app stores. In addition, Grindr has long supported the Voluntary Principles to Counter Online Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse developed by governments, NGOs, and industry leaders with the common goal of helping to mitigate online harms for minors.

Jack Harrison-Quintana (Director, Grindr For Equality) and Bill Shafton (Legal Bill) before their meeting with UK officials in September 2019

Our Commitment to the Future

The team and I draw inspiration from the countless moments of life-affirming connection that the Grindr app facilitates every day across the world. As advocates for the best of Grindr, we feel a deep responsibility to the community we serve. That’s why we do things like limit the information shared with advertisers, and that’s why we are working tirelessly every day towards a stronger community, a Safer world, and demonstrate our commitment to continually reflecting on how we can better serve our community in a secure and meaningful way. We look forward to the journey ahead.

- Bill Shafton, VP, Business & Legal Affairs | LinkedIn

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