Dating apps removing ethnic filter won't end racist bias in swiping dates, but here's what apps can actually do

Dating apps removing ethnic filter won't end racist bias in swiping dates, but here's what apps can actually do
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Protests and conversation following the death of George Floyd has touched all elements of the society, and even dating apps have not been left behind. Most of the apps have allowed their users to filter their date searches, which also included the ability to filter by race. However, after the Black Lives Matter movement started, the dating apps have shown their support and made some changes.

After initially posting social media statements and making donations in support of Black Lives Matter, several popular apps have now made changes on their platform. For instance, OkCupid launched a #BlackLivesMatter profile badge in more than a dozen countries, and Grindr — a geosocial networking and online dating application for gay and bi men — has got rid of its “ethnicity filter” as part of its support for the movement. 

On the other hand, Bumble rolled out a campaign tied to Pride Month, encouraging its users to donate to LGBTQ+ organizations that support BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color). “Pride and racial justice aren’t mutually exclusive. As ongoing supporters of Pride Month, we have to acknowledge the BIPOC who founded this movement and those who continue to fight for their rights today. Trans people of color have been on the frontlines of fighting for fundamental human rights for decades, such as leading the Stonewall Riots, which are widely credited with starting the gay liberation movement,” Kyra Seay, Bumble’s special projects manager, said in a statement.

An expert in racism and diversity, however, believes that getting rid of filters from dating apps won’t eliminate racism, “but they can avoid reinforcing it by emphasizing the common characteristics between one choosing a date and one available as a date”. “To be even more objective, apps might construct a scoring sheet of what potentials have in common and then provide a prospect on that basis. By all means, do not provide a picture until the last step in the process,” Hall, Professor of Social Work, Michigan State University, told MEA WorldWide.

Explaining further, Hall said: “People have a right to date their preferences. Dating apps do not have a right to discriminate by promoting one group over another. However, a ‘demographic’ section that details a prospective date seems appropriate i.e.: height, weight, religion, color, caste, etc. Care must be taken to ensure that one attribute of a potential date is not implied as superior over the other. For example, primary date info via introduction would invite a potential to select a date on the basis of what the date likes. Once chosen, the prospective date might obtain a secondary demographic more personal such as height, color, etc.”

Hall also took an example of a popular Indian matrimonial website,, that has recently removed its skin tone filter following an online backlash. He said that in several parts of the world, including India, “dates may be addressed on the basis of race and ethnicity but in fact, rely upon skin color. This is true of India and other parts of the world inhabited by non-white people.” He added these “filters encourage prejudice and superficial relationships. Such actions of the part of dating apps contribute to a worldwide trend for minorities called the ‘Bleaching Syndrome’”.

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