I couldn’t stop thinking about one Reddit thread in which the commenter (a man, I established) advised a fellow user to simply report a girl “any time they are a c*** to you… The moment you receive a text that isn’t moving things forward in a way you want, just report… When I report regularly, I just type ‘gaslighting’ as the reason, and then add ‘made me feel uncomfortable’ (the catch-all that can’t be proven).”
Kara, 21, and Harriet, 26, were both banned from the apps they’d be using after reporting men that had sexually assaulted them, one of whom had created multiple fake profiles in order to contact the woman
It made my skin crawl, and reminded me of the online incel culture whereby ‘involuntarily celibate’ men plot punishments for women who won’t sleep with them. Is revenge-reporting their new tactic? Had someone reported me because I hadn’t replied or “moved things forward in a way that they wanted”?
I reached out to several women online who had experienced similar issues. “I believe it was men who were upset that I didn’t respond either fast enough or after they had sent me messages I didn’t want to reply to. I truly cannot think of anything else that could have got me banned,” says Maiya, 28.
Kim, 22, agreed, adding that “People might assume my account is a catfish account because I’m a pretty girl and I don’t respond.”
Last year, Tinder’s Chief Executive Elie Seidman admitted to Reuters that its reporting options were being abused: “Trans people continue to be reported at higher rates by cisgender members simply for being who they are”
Of all the women I spoke to, most appealed and one said she couldn’t as the decision had been “informed and final”. Only one successfully had their ban lifted after tweeting about it.
In the name of research, I took a deep breath and texted the handful of people I had met on the app whose numbers I still had. I assured them that it wasn’t some elaborate way to get back in touch or trick them into a confession, and to their credit, they all responded denying reporting me or, indeed, anyone else.
But I still wasn’t reassured: I had no reason to think they were lying, but I knew that if I had been targeted, it was the tip of the iceberg.
Trawling social media, Reddit, and Trust Pilot, it was apparent that trans people, and women in particular, were being targeted.
Tia, 28, has been banned multiple times by dating apps. “I had been using the app on and off for six months. Almost immediately after I highlighted that I was transgender in my profile, my account got removed.” The app later reactivated her account, claiming it had been reported for catfishing, but not without endless emails to get the issue sorted.
Actor and activist Laverne Cox was banned from Hinge in July, and Hinge responded that users didn’t believe her account was real because she’s so high-profile. In video that addressed transphobia, and explained she had been banned again on both Hinge and OkCupid. “There are some men out there who don’t even want a trans person in their existence in any way – because they might find themselves attracted to a trans woman and all of a sudden they have to question their ‘masculinity’. So it’s easier for them if we just don’t exist – on apps, in public, anywhere.”
The app responded to Cox, as reported in Gay Times, saying, “We’re honoured that you chose us to help you find love. We’re so sorry our people thought having you on Hinge was too good to be true. Your account has been free dating sites reinstated and we’ve given you a lifetime preferred membership, which we hope you won’t need for long.”