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The Intersect

Tinder is banning (most of) the teens next week

June 9, 2016 at 3:58 PM

(Tinder)

The dating app Tinder will ban all users under 18 starting next week. That's a big change from its earlier policy, which allowed anyone over 13 to use the app — albeit only with other users who were also under 18.

Tinder Vice President of Communications Rosette Pambakian told Techcrunch that the company started reconsidering its age policy earlier this year, and that the move is the "right thing to do." Here's their full statement:

On a platform that has facilitated over 11 billion connections, we have the responsibility of constantly assessing our different user experiences. Consistent with this responsibility, we have decided to discontinue service for under 18 users. We believe this is the best policy moving forward. This change will take effect next week.

Although the statement doesn't explicitly address the safety concerns that allowing adults and children to use the same dating app might raise, it wouldn't be too surprising if safety was a driving force behind the decision.

Related: [What happens when a hook-up app like Hot or Not allows both kids and adults]

Last year, the Intersect looked at how dating apps such as Tinder were treating under-18 users. While it is true that Tinder does say that underage users are separated from the adults on the site, we learned that it's really not that hard for an adult to set up a fake profile as a teen — or vice-versa — on the site. Here's more:

Do hook-up apps have an obligation to protect underage users? Legally speaking, not really. COPPA, the federal statute that governs how Internet companies interact with kids, only applies to children younger than 14.

And under section 230 of the Communications Decency Act — the critical Internet legislation that basically allowed social networks to exist — a site operator can't be held responsible for the misdeeds of its users, except in a couple very narrow circumstances.

Tinder told the Guardian in 2014 that about 7 percent of its users were between the ages of 13 and 17. Techcrunch's article, citing Pambakian, says that the new ban will affect about 3 percent of Tinder's current user base.

The app also announced that it would implement a series of changes to try and make the app friendlier for transgender users. Tinder chief executive Sean Rad said at a recent event that the company was aware of instances of transgender users being flagged as "fake" by other users, and that company would "modify the experience" to try and stop that from happening, according to CNet's report on his remarks. There's little specific information available as to what those changes would look like.

Also, Rad gave another clue as to why Tinder has gone ahead and decided it doesn't need its younger teen set of users: The company says it is now attracting plenty of older adults. Pushing back at the idea of Tinder as a "hook-up" app, Rad said: "Our audience is older. There are now marriages happening on Tinder."

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Abby Ohlheiser covers digital culture for The Washington Post. She was previously a general assignment reporter for The Post, focusing on national breaking news and religion.

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