An investigation from Sky News has found many children in the UK are managing to get around age verification measures on adult dating apps, including Tinder and Grindr. Such children are at severe risk of exploitation, and there are now dozens of documented abuse cases linked to online dating.
The youngest victim Sky reported on was a six-year-old boy who was sexually groomed by a man he’d met on a gay dating app.
In response to the issue, the government has committed an additional £30 million to tackle online child exploitation. This will include more resources for the Child Abuse Image Database, which helps law enforcement to scan devices for indecent images.
The UK’s Home Secretary Priti Patel told Sky News: “I think this is just absolutely appalling. What we are seeing are young children now being preyed upon by people, by predators with obviously the wrong motives and the wrong motivation, we must do more. We must do more.
“That means the technology companies themselves have to step up and I think this is more than just age verification, we need standards from technology companies, they need to absolutely make sure that young people are not just falling through age verification systems and processes, we’ve got to protect them.”
She continued on to say technology brands, like dating apps and social media platforms, should make an effort to work with the government and police forces to make sure no child is left exposed.
A spokesperson from Tinder reacted by saying that the company spends “millions of dollars annually” to keep minors off of the app. It also insisted that it works with police whenever it can to ensure general user safety.
At the end of June the UK government published a consultative white paper on Internet Safety, detailing its plans to protect people while they’re online.
The Online Dating Association provided largely positive feedback on the white paper, saying that it agreed that further action was required to prevent online harms.
Read more here.