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Divya Srinivasan is a human rights lawyer and activist from India, with a background in research, advocacy and international law.

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Her work focuses on gender, free speech and digital rights. Image description: Back of woman with words painted - Love shouldnt hurt. Photo by Sydney Sims on Unsplash.


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A recent investigation by ABC in Australia found that hundreds of people experience sexual harassment and abuse on Tinder and damningly, that Tinder largely ignored survivors who approached the app for help after the abuse. This report once again brings to the fore the clear need for internet intermediaries, including online dating companies, to take more active steps to combat gender-based violence GBV facilitated by their platforms. While there are growing calls from the public for dating apps or websites such as Tinder, Bumble, Grindr and Hinge to abide by this moral responsibility, the legal position on this issue is murkier.

Most countries lack clear legal frameworks which establish the obligations or responsibilities of intermediaries to prevent and respond to cases of online GBV, let alone offline sexual violence which is facilitated by online platforms.


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  6. In some countries, safe harbour provisions established to preserve free speech online that were intended to protect intermediaries from liability for third party content hosted on their platform have been expanded to protect intermediaries from liability for any illegal acts conducted by third parties using the platform. For instance, in the United States, Grindr was held to be protected from liability under section of the Communications Decency Act the safe harbour provision under US law.

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    On the other hand, courts in Israel have held dating sites liable for failing to remove fake profiles using the personal information of another user, and have ordered the payment of compensation in such cases. Safe harbour provisions in most laws require intermediaries to exercise certain due diligence obligations to avoid liability. In relation to illegal content online, these due diligence obligations usually mean that an intermediary can be held liable for failing to take down content after receiving notice that they are hosting illegal content.

    However, the exact model varies from country to country - some require a judicial order, while others follow a notice-counter notice mechanism which requires the other party to be heard before the content is taken down. Requiring all users to undergo a background check before registering onto a dating app also raises many legitimate privacy concerns and increases the sensitive and personal data available to companies such as Tinder.

    As an alternative to background checks, there have been suggestions to make identity verification mandatory, through various means such as linking to a social media profile or requiring users to upload a copy of a government-approved ID. Identity verification could also help combat the problem of users creating multiple alternate profiles even after their original profile was taken down after an abuse complaint.

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    In India, a government advisory issued under the Information Technology Act to matrimonial websites requires these intermediaries to clearly publish details of the available complaint redressal mechanism and the Grievance Officer appointed by the website. However, requiring identity verification has also been criticized for violating the privacy of users, and could also impact the ability of women who are trying to escape from abusers to create profiles under a pseudonym, which may in fact harm their safety.

    Given these serious concerns, rather than requiring identity verification, dating apps could take other steps to ensure that banned users do not create fake profiles, such as checking the IP address from which the new profile was created, monitoring for image repetition and the like. With respect to children, mandatory reporting obligations which are present in the laws of many countries would require intermediaries to report any cases of sexual assault which come to their attention, failing which they could be held criminally responsible. For instance, in India, a complaint was filed against a healthcare app for failing to file a criminal report against a user who posted a message claiming that he had sexually abused a child.

    However, when it comes to reports of sexual violence by adult women, the laws in most countries do not impose any obligations on intermediaries to respond to such complaints.

    Background

    Ideally, due diligence obligations of intermediaries ought to require them to respond in a timely manner, inquire into the complaint and take steps to ban abusive users from the platforms as well as take down abusive content. As recommended by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women , intermediaries should have transparent complaint mechanisms for ICT-facilitated violence, and provide details of the number of complaints made and action taken.

    Even in the absence of specific legal provisions relating to digital platforms, criminal laws in most countries have enabling provisions which can be used to require dating apps to disclose information regarding the perpetrator. The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights known as the Ruggie Framework also provides guidance on the actions which intermediaries can take to protect human rights online, though these principles have been hard to enforce.

    Unlike other social media companies which publish regular transparency reports, most dating apps including Tinder, do not publish reports disclosing the number of assault and harassment complaints they receive, the action taken in response to these complaints. Improving transparency is an essential first step which dating apps need to take in improving their response to reports of GBV facilitated by their platform.

    In this context, the imposition of greater legal responsibility on intermediaries may be the only effective way to force online dating companies to take more concrete steps in response to GBV facilitated by their platforms.

    While some traditional concerns regarding increasing liability of intermediaries such as privacy concerns of users do remain even in cases involving dating apps, other concerns such as the chilling effect on free speech do not apply as much due to the lack of public speech on dating apps. Clinically, there are two main clinical foci to his research. Many biomedical research centers have been named in honor of the donors who, through their generous support, are helping to advance work done in the particular areas of investigation.

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    Bin Deng, PhD, is a biomedical scientist whose research interests revolve around near-infrared NIR spectroscopy, functional optical imaging, the interactions between NIR light and tissue, noninvasive optical biomarkers and the pathophysiology of diseases. Deng investigates the intersection The series proved so successful the organizers are planning to hold a Sometimes we get the hero we need. In short, it broke. Without a magnetic field, the instrument was inoperabl She also holds research appointments in the Psychiatric Neuroimaging Program in the Department of Psychiatry and a Researchers have long believed that the amygdala, an almond-shaped structure in the brain, is central to the experience and perception of fear.

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