Belgian Helpline Releases Study on Dating App Safety

Helplijn 1712, a Belgian helpline for issues related to violence, abuse, and child abuse, conducted a study of 5 popular dating apps to examine their safety protocols. 

The study, jointly conducted with the University Colleges Leuven-Limburg (UCLL) Centre of Expertise Resilient People, came as a result of the helpline receiving at least 50 calls in 2022 in which dating apps played a key role in the connection between perpetrator and victim.

These calls were about issues such as revenge porn, date rape, and violence, The Brussels Times reports.

Researchers involved in the study highlighted that most dating apps present guidelines for behaviour, and can automatically detect inappropriate actions like sending a nude photo. However, the report highlights its “usually unclear what steps the app takes next”. 

The study also looked at how easy it is for dating app users to create fake profiles on the platform. This came as a result of a number of helpline calls mentioning that a perpetrator first made contact and gained trust via a fake profile.

 “Further research is needed to get a clear picture of violence facilitated by dating apps and how these apps deal with violence. There is no doubt that there is still much room for improvement”, said Anne Groenen, who leads the UCLL expertise centre Resilient People.

Both the helpline and the university centre call for better regulation of dating apps, as the platforms are largely left to their own devices when it comes to safety measures, they argue.

“I fully agree that dating apps can still firmly improve their safety policies. Therefore, I will also alert my European colleagues to this study on dating apps,” said Hilde Crevits, Flemish Minister for Welfare, Public Health and Family.

Flemish Justice Minister Zuhal Demir agreed saying internet platforms have long been a “playground for sexual predators to stalk and attack their prey all too easily”. 

Image from Helplijn 1712’s website.