Domestic violence and dating apps: What did the summit decide?

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Dating app safety was at the forefront of a national roundtable as Australia tries to deal with the rise domestic violence and prevent it from happening on the platforms.

The devastating domestic violence statistics speak for themselves in Australia, with an average of one woman per week being killed by a former or current partner.

One in six women has experienced sexual or physical violence from a current partner, compared to one in 16 men.

Dating app top on domestic violence
A nationwide roundtable talked about how dating apps can prevent domestic violence. (9News)

More than three million Australians use dating apps and now authorities are figuring out how to prevent domestic violence offenders from infiltrating the platforms.

Why was the round table held?

As domestic violence becomes more prevalent in Australia alongside the popularity of dating apps, both the state and federal governments face a growing problem of stopping it.

It led to calls for reform of dating apps and the protections for dating app users of potential partners with a history of domestic violence.

Danielle Finlay-Jones was allegedly murdered by a man she met on a dating app. (Delivered)

Dating app representatives met with survivors, government officials and domestic violence services at the Sydney summit.

Communications Minister Michelle Rowland said there isn’t an overnight solution to prevent violence on dating apps, but today was a “first step”.

Dating app top on domestic violence
Representatives from dating apps, government and support groups gathered today. (9News)

There were three main takeaways from the round table, Rowland said.

  • Preventing exploitation of online dating services by perpetrators
  • Support the users who are harmed
  • Empowering users with safe online dating practices

Tinder had previously released details of the dating safety guide available on the platform that all users must agree to in order to download the app.

Grindr, Bumble and Match revealed the artificial intelligence the platforms use to detect harmful language.

Work is also underway on background checks on the platforms.

Some apps have also recently introduced the ability to restore past messages when users have blocked someone so they can be used as evidence.

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Rowland said there will be no law regulating acts of violence over dating apps, but he assured that the burden of proof will not be placed on the victim’s survivors to solve it.

She added that changes are needed in how complaints are handled on the apps.

”When a dating app user signals a problem. Complaints shouldn’t be just another data point,” she said.

“We need the industry to improve their actions, their transparency and their accountability in how they respond to consumer complaints.”

So what happens from today?

Communications Minister Michelle Rowland on the dating app summit.
Communications Minister Michelle Rowland on the dating app summit. (9News)

Rowland plans to convey the outcome of the roundtable to the Commonwealth and state and territory attorneys general.

The perspectives of victim-relatives will continue to influence government decision-making.

The communications department and the eSafety commissioner will work to implement “transparency and change” regulatory mechanisms on dating app platforms.

What do the experts think should be done?

In the wake of today’s summit, aid workers say education initiatives need to be implemented on the dating app platforms and technology better used.

Shaan Ross-Smith, who has a long history of working with victims of domestic violence, told 9news.com.au that educational directions should be implemented in the app’s terms and conditions when people sign up.

“There’s a responsibility on dating apps to do what they can where they can,” she said.

“Dating apps can give perpetrators information about what’s not cool to do, like ‘do you know this is domestic violence or if this is a toxic interaction’.”

Dating apps
Experts say educational resources should be used. (Getty)

She added that digital nudges should also be implemented.

“There should be campaigns in the dating apps like a digital nudge every time someone opens it to say ‘hey remember this is what a safe interaction looks like,'” she said.

Or even pop-up relationship tips or notifications on what toxic, unhealthy, abusive interactions look like or first-date tips on how to set safe boundaries.

But Ross-Smith should not place the responsibility on the victim to protect themselves, but the perpetrators and platforms must be held accountable.

“I think education is the biggest and best thing we can do,” she said

FullStop Australia director of clinical and customer service Tara Hunter told 9news.com.au that the apps need to be stepped up and make better use of technology to verify and identify perpetrators of violence and harm and those with criminal records.

“But we recognize that we cannot create a false sense of security, but there must be an integrated approach,” she said.

She echoed Ross-Smith’s desire for learning resources, but said the apps should make them accessible and suitable for all backgrounds.

“It’s not one size fits all,” she said

There have been calls for criminals to be banned from dating apps after Sydney teacher Danielle Finlay-Jones was reportedly killed by a man she met online.
Domestic violence organizations want technology to be used to track criminal histories. (9News)

Hunter added that the apps should also be transparent about complaint procedures.

“When you make a report, the app should let you know what happens to that information and have the courtesy to let you know the outcome of the report,” she said.

But Hunter said it’s not just about the dating apps, it’s about a national approach to domestic violence.

Hunter wants some of the ideas discussed in the roundtable implemented quickly, such as technology that tracks the history of domestic violence, and others brought forward for further discussion, both for the apps and the wider government framework.

If you or someone you know is a victim of sexual assault, domestic violence or domestic violence, please call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au. In case of emergency, call 000.

Help is available from the Men’s Referral Service on 1300 766 491.

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