Government demands dating sites do better by Australians
The online dating industry has been asked to develop a new voluntary industry code of practice to better protect Australians using their services – or they will face regulation.
The Albanese Labor Government has made the request to online dating companies in writing as an action following the National Roundtable on Online Dating Safety.
The voluntary code would include commitments to improving engagement with law enforcement, supporting at-risk users, improving safety policies and practices, and greater transparency about harms.
It is to be in place by the middle of next year.
The Government has flagged to industry that if the code does not sufficiently improve safety for users of online dating services, legislative options will be pursued.
Research from the Australian Institute of Criminology released in October 2022 found three in four people using dating apps or websites experienced some form of sexual violence in the five years to 2021. This violence included sexual harassment, abusive or threatening language, image-based sexual abuse and stalking.
The National Roundtable on Online Dating Safety convened in January by Minister for Communications, the Hon Michelle Rowland MP and Minister for Social Services, the Hon Amanda Rishworth MP brought together the online dating industry, state and territory governments, the family, domestic and sexual violence sector and victim-survivor advocacy groups to examine options to address sexual violence facilitated by online dating platforms.
Since the Roundtable, the Government has been working with the industry to understand the nature and frequency of harms affecting Australians, and the policies and practices that they have in place to keep users safe.
While many online dating platforms have taken steps to keep their users safe, these efforts vary in sophistication and effectiveness across the industry. The Government is calling on the industry to collaborate to improve safety across the board through the development of the voluntary industry code.
Quotes attributable to Minister for Communications, the Hon Michelle Rowland MP:
“Dating apps are now the most common way to meet a partner in Australia, yet the level of violence experienced by users of these platforms is deeply concerning. Online dating platforms must do their part to end violence against Australians.
“That is why I have decided to provide members of the online dating industry with an opportunity to work together to address the Government’s concerns.
“However, I have made it crystal clear that if the industry fails to improve safety outcomes for Australians, we will not hesitate to develop legislative options.”
Quotes attributable to Minister for Social Services, the Hon Amanda Rishworth MP
“Dating app violence is form of gender-based violence, and it has to end.
“There is no arbitrary line between online and offline in our lives anymore. Abuse can cross between them like osmosis.
“We need to ensure that our community, including dating app users, know what it means to be respectful online, what kinds of behaviours are unacceptable and the consequences for unacceptable behaviours.”
More information on the National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children 2022–2032 is available on the Department of Social Services website.
If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week or visit www.1800RESPECT.org.au.
If you are concerned about your behaviour or use of violence, you can contact the Men’s Referral Service on 1300 766 491 or visit www.ntv.org.au.