The company behind the popular gay app Grindr posted on Twitter today (June 1, local time) that the app will remove racial screening,media reported. The decision was intended to show solidarity with the United States against police violence against blacks. The filter, which allows users to avoid seeing people of a particular race by paying, will be removed in the next app update.
Racial filters have been controversial for years, but even if Grindr launched an anti-racism campaign on its platform in 2018, that hasn’t changed. That same year, Landen Zumwalt, Grindr’s former communications director, told the Guardian that the company had discussed removing racial filters but was not ready to get rid of them. He says the team wants to communicate well with users first because filters give minority people the chance to find someone to match.
Other similar apps, such as the League and Hinge, also allow users to filter out people of a particular race. In 2019, Amanda Bradord, CEO of The League, told The Verge that the filters are not encouraging racism, but are helping people of color find people of color who are similar to themselves. She cites the example of an Indian woman looking for an Indian man whose filters are more effective than searching for thousands of personal data.
At the same time, researchers found that people of color were more likely to be rejected than whites on dating apps. These filters allow people to continue to discriminate against people of color and reinforce racist attitudes. White women are much less interested in black or Asian men, according to a 2014 report by OkCupid.
Grindr’s removal of filters may prevent users from communicating their racial preferences to the app, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they will match people who look different. In addition, their matching behavior can still affect Grindr’s algorithm, because the app can learn from the user’s behavior.