Exclusive: Behind the Scenes of Dating App Safety

Global Dating Insights spoke with Niamh McIntyre, the journalist behind a revealing new investigation into the workforce behind dating app content moderation. She explores the mental health challenges faced by these workers as they try to keep singles safe.

In a new article, Niamh McIntyre, Big Tech Reporter at the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, investigates the conditions faced by the workers who identify and remove harmful content from dating platforms. We spoke to her in an exclusive interview to find out more:

GDI: Hi Niamh, can you tell us about the research behind this article? Where have these insights come from?

Niamh: As a tech reporter at the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, I report on the low-paid workers performing data labelling tasks for the world’s biggest technology companies. After doing a story on TikTok’s Colombian content moderators, I was curious to find out more about how dating apps handled trust and safety and whether any of the same issues existed for their workers.

To report the story I spoke to more than 40 current and former dating app workers – mostly content moderators and safety specialists, but also executives – across Bumble, Grindr and Match Group. These included staffers, freelancers and outsourced workers based all over the world. We also reviewed company documents and other supporting evidence.

GDI: Can you summarise some key findings you discovered regarding the wellbeing and mental health of trust & safety professionals in online dating?

Niamh: While different allegations were made against different companies, the overall findings were pretty shocking. Many workers told us about the impact of the more distressing content they had to deal with, including reports about sexual assault, offline violence and child sexual abuse. Some told us about mental health issues they associated with their work, including symptoms of anxiety, depression and PTSD, while one had attempted suicide on multiple occasions.

The other key issue we looked at was mental health provision. While some workers had access to comprehensive support, others did not – and some former workers at Grindr’s moderation contractor PartnerHero said they had been penalised or fired during mental health crises.

GDI: What connections did you find between the wellbeing of trust & safety professionals and the quality of protection they provide to users?

Niamh: First and foremost we wanted to centre the experience of the people doing this work. But their working conditions are inextricably linked to safety issues for dating app users, because overworked and traumatised workers are not going to be in the best position to enforce what are often complex guidelines, or to review serious abuse reports.

The most common user safety issues that workers cited were understaffing and large backlogs of tickets. Grindr and Bumble workers in particular spoke about backlogs of tickets accumulating, including on escalated cases, which sometimes led to delays in dealing with serious issues.

However, Match Group and Bumble said they had increased the size of trust and safety teams in recent years, Grindr said its safety and legal teams were sufficiently resourced, and its contractor PartnerHero said it prioritised employee welfare.

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