New online dating industry code now in place

Online dating app companies have now adopted a new industry code to improve safety for Australians following a request by the Albanese Government.

The world-leading code – created following the Albanese Government’s National Roundtable on Online Dating Safety last year – has been developed by an industry working group consisting of Match Group, Bumble, Grindr, Spark Networks, RSVP; and the ParshipMeet Group.
All companies within the working group have agreed to adopt the code which includes: 

  • Implement systems to detect potential incidents of online-enabled harm;
  • Take actions against end-users found to have violated online safety policies, including terminating accounts across all services operated by that company;
  • Implementing prominent, clear and transparent complaint and reporting mechanisms;
  • Provide support resources for Australian users in relation to safe dating practices and online enabled harms;
  • Publish regular transparency reports detailing the number of Australian accounts terminated and content moderation processes;
  • Improve engagement with Australian law enforcement, including proactive escalation of complaints where there is an imminent threat to the safety of a complainant.

Dating services have also agreed to a new compliance rating system that will be published on participating services to provide users clear guidance on how each dating service is meeting its commitments.

A new Code Oversight Body will be formed to administer the Code, including verifying services’ self-assessed levels of compliance.

An independent Code Compliance Committee made up of three members of the public – comprising one person admitted to practice as a solicitor, one person with experience relating to online safety, sexual or gender-based violence or public policy, and one with experience in social networking technology platforms – will be empowered to enforce the Code.

This could include by issuing formal warnings, ordering a participant develop a plan to meet its commitments, suspension or formal removal from the Code, which would prohibit the use of any accreditation or reference to compliance with the Code.

The Code will be operationalised over the coming three months.
After nine months of the Code’s operation, the eSafety Commissioner will assess the effectiveness of the code and provide advice to Government on its adequacy – including whether further regulatory action is required.
Online dating remains Australians’ most popular way to meet a new partner. The Government convened the National Roundtable for Online Dating Safety following a study from the Australian Institute of Criminology that three in four survey respondents had been subjected to sexual violence facilitated by dating apps in the last five years.
The Government acknowledges industry’s constructive engagement to-date, including efforts following the National Roundtable to invest in technology to prevent and reduce harmful behaviour and content, and educating users on safety features and reporting mechanisms.
Quotes attributable to Minister for Communications, the Hon Michelle Rowland MP:
“Online dating is now the most common way to meet a partner in Australia. These services did not develop overnight, and the lack of action over the last decade means that regulation has not kept pace with technology.
“This new industry code is an Australian-first for the online dating sector. 
“The Albanese Government’s constructive engagement with industry means that the largest online dating services operating in Australia have made clear, public commitments to improve the safety of their services – including to crack down on abuse and de-platform dangerous users.
“The Government will be watching industry closely over the coming months as the Code is operationalised, and we look forward to the eSafety Commissioner’s assessment of its effectiveness as we consider any possible next steps”.
Quotes attributable to the Minister for Social Services, the Hon Amanda Rishworth MP:
“Dating app violence is a form of gender-based violence, and it has to end. 
“Our Albanese Labor Government is committed to ensuring Australians are safe from sexual violence and abuse in both online and physical spaces. We must create communities – both in the physical and virtual world – where everyone is treated equally and with respect. This world-leading industry code will improve safety for Australians using dating apps and help them make choices about the apps they use.
“Everyone deserves to live a life free of violence no matter where they are – and this includes online”.