The app previously defended the feature as one that helped the same people it’s now being eliminated in solidarity for.
The app previously defended the feature as one that helped the same people it’s now being eliminated in solidarity for.

Controversial filter set to disappear from dating app

One of the first dating apps to make it onto our smartphones has now removed a controversial feature.

Grindr, a gay dating app that helped pioneer the use of location data to connect users, has removed the filter which allowed users to eliminate potential matches by race - after years of criticism of the feature.

The company has previously been asked to and has considered removing the filter, which is a paid feature.

A former Grindr communications head told The Guardian in 2018 that the company had considered the move but eventually opted against it.

"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," Landen Zumwalt said.

But with protests against police violence and systemic racism continuing across the United States forcing much introspection about the role of race in both the US and around the world, the company has evidently decided now is the time to remove the filter.

Like most brands, it made the announcement via a message in white lettering over a black background that was sent out on social media.

The filter will be removed in the next update.

Grindr isn't the only app to have featured the filter though.

Hinge, the app billing itself as the "anti-dating app" that's "designed to be deleted" after you find a meaningful relationship also has the ability to filter by ethnicity.

Race can be a disqualifying factor for some users on dating apps.
Race can be a disqualifying factor for some users on dating apps.

The League, an exclusive dating app aimed at "professionals" that's currently only available in the United States also has an ethnicity filter.

Its CEO Amanda Bradford spoke to The Verge last year about it.

She told the site the race filter was supposed to promote "efficiency" and help members of the same minority find each other, if that's what they wanted.

"Let's say you're Indian, and you really want to marry another Indian and that's something that's very important in your culture, and your parents really want you to, you want to. If we didn't have that, you'd have to maybe be on the app 100 days to kind of go through all the Indian men in New York, whereas now you're going to go through them in 30 days," Ms Bradford said.

"We relax race as well, so we'll start to show you other races and other religions, but we try to show you exactly what you want first so that we're in the business of giving people what they're looking for and not trying to play Big Brother and say, no, you should not be searching for that," she said.

"Indian" is really a demonym to describe someone from the country of India, which is made up of a wide mix of various races and ethnicities.

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Even with the filter, some Grindr users insist on letting everyone know of their racial ‘preference’.
Even with the filter, some Grindr users insist on letting everyone know of their racial ‘preference’.

Hinge founder Justin McLeod also appropriated the Grindr defence in 2019, saying the filters helped minorities rather than hurting them.

"We've actually taken a little bit of flack for having an ethnicity filter," he told Mashable. "But on the other hand, we find that minorities are the ones who use those - because otherwise it's a wash, they're in the majority culture.

"Those kinds of things really are there to protect and help minority groups," he said.

While Grindr has been around longer than those apps, and thus had the ethnicity filter longer, it has also been the first to remove it.

Other apps were keen to pick up the defence that the ethnicity filters are actually good for minorities.

Now that Grindr has evidently decided that's not the case the remaining apps may have to find a new reason for their existence, or further examine why they have them in the first place.

Grindr’s defence that some users rely on the filter to find members of the same minority was quickly copied by other apps, and it does appear somewhat accurate.
Grindr’s defence that some users rely on the filter to find members of the same minority was quickly copied by other apps, and it does appear somewhat accurate.

Grindr is also in the news at the moment after it emerged an investment group that was given approval to purchase the app from the Chinese company that owns it after it was pressured to divest by the US government over national security fears has ties to that same company.

Chinese gaming company Beijing Kunlun Tech Co Ltd bought Grindr outright in 2016.

Last Friday, an investor group called San Vicente Acquisition was given approval to purchase the app for $US620 million ($A892 million).

On Tuesday, Reuters reported that a "close business associate" of Kunlun's founder tried to raise money to buy Grindr, and two of the partners in that fund eventually became part of the San Vicente investment group.

Originally published as Controversial filter set to disappear



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