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Online dating platforms warned they will be hit with mandatory codes if they don’t clean up their apps

Online dating platforms warned they will be hit with mandatory codes if they don’t clean up their apps

Online dating platforms have been warned to do more to make dating apps safer or else they may be forced to do so, after a national roundtable meeting on the issue.

The federal communications and social services ministers hosted the roundtable as part of a broader push to eliminate violence against women and children within a “generation”.

They said online platforms had made renewed commitments to improve safety, including sharing more information with each other about bad actors, and improving complaints-handling processes.

But Communications Minister Michelle Rowland warned the online platforms were also “on notice” to improve, with new powers recently given to e-safety commissioner Julie Inman Grant to impose a mandatory code of conduct on the sector if it failed to make apps safer.

“These dating app services are not going to go away … over three million Australians are using them,” Ms Rowland said.

“So, we need to bring the industry with us as much as they can, but there is a backstop.”

Ms Inman Grant said she would be watching closely to see whether the apps acted on their commitments.

“We can hold their feet to the fire; I am currently considering mandatory industry codes … if their actions don’t meet community standards,” Ms Inman Grant said.

A blonde woman with shoulder length hair speaking with two other women behind her on either side
Julie Inman Grant was recently empowered with the ability to impose a mandatory code of conduct on online dating platforms if she deemed it necessary.(ABC News: Adam Kennedy)

Mandatory ID verification floated, but groups warned it could be abused

One of the key proposals discussed by the online dating roundtable was whether dating apps should require users to verify their identity.

The industry is reluctant to host verifying documents such as passports or driver licenses, a concern Ms Rowland said was understandable in light of recent cyber breaches that exposed Australians’ data.

a woman talking
Michelle Rowland says dating apps acknowledge they must do better on online safety.(AAP: Mick Tsikas)

The National Women’s Safety Alliance has also warned identity verification could have the opposite effect of potentially jeopardizing safety for people fleeing abusive relationships, or that it could be “gamed” by perpetrators as a means to disarm people.

They also noted that police background checks for app users, which were called for after the murder of Danielle Finlay-Jones last month, would fail to spot the “vast majority” of perpetrators who do not have a criminal history.

Ms Rowland said while the government would consult on those options, online dating platforms had advised the roundtable they were in the process of developing “digital fingerprint” technology that could instead help to verify a user’s identity, as well as prevent serial abusers from creating new accounts under false identities.

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