The background check tool used by Match Group to offer a safety feature for Tinder users has been discontinued. The non-profit and female-founded Pride, with which the dating app conglomerate has been involved since 2019, will close its consumer service at the end of August. “Most tech companies just see trust and safety as good PR,” said Kathryn Kosmides, founder and CEO of Garbo. The Wall Street Journal, which published a report on the broken partnership. “I’d rather Garbo shift the focus to our other efforts than allow Garbo’s vision to be compromised and turned into a piece of corporate marketing objectives.”
A spokesperson for Match Group provided a statement to Engadget. “Match Group has made significant investments to improve the safety of our platforms over the past few years and we will continue to do so. From features like ‘Are you sure?’ and ‘Does it bother you?’ to background checks, we’ve created tools and made investments that no other dating app offers. We’re committed to continuously investing in and building industry-leading features that give users more information and control over who they choose to connect with on our platforms.
The company suggests it is in the process of finding a replacement partner to check for histories of violence. “While we are disappointed that we were unable to reach an agreement, we are in advanced discussions with alternative providers and will announce a new partnership soon,” the spokesperson wrote.
Kosmides told the WSJ that Garbo’s decision to suspend the tool stems from disagreements with the Match Group and difficulties in getting platforms to pay for its services. He describes internal disputes within the Match Group brands over how to make the tool work.
Tinder leaders are reportedly pushing for a system that would encourage users to run background checks on themselves to receive a badge on their profile, described as “a way to include less run. [background checks] themselves (mostly men) and promoted most people to be good,” an internal document viewed by WSJ read. Garbo dismissed the idea, and Kosmides told the paper, “You can’t white-list someone or give them a ‘good guy, bad guy’ identity verification.”
Public interest and regulation of dating app safety increased in 2019 when ProPublica published a widely circulated story about sex offenders using dating apps. A Match Group spokesperson was quoted in the story as telling Columbia Journalism Investigations, “There are registered sex offenders in our free products.” The chaos led to increased scrutiny from Capitol Hill. US Reps Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and Ann Kuster (D-NH) sent a letter in 2020 to the Match Group asking about protecting users from registered sex offenders. The couple sent a follow-up letter this July, announcing that the dating company was no longer disclosing the size of its trust and safety group.
Growing public and political interest intensified the pressure on Match Group to do something, and its leadership reportedly saw Garbo – a new and untested product still under development – as a new solution. The dating conglomerate announced its $1.5 million partnership with the group in 2021 and launched a consumer app the following year — with the company paying to offer two free background searches for Tinder users. Some have criticized the move for providing a false sense of security, although Match Group cautions against viewing it as an all-in-one fix.
This summer, with Match Group and Garbo failing to agree on funding terms, the board later met and voted to end the tool. Garbo, which also works with small companies, said it will return to volunteering starting September 1. The organization says it will “refocus our efforts in more ways to directly give the power of individuals with new and innovative tools to protect themselves from gender-based violence and other interpersonal harms in the digital age.”
Undeterred from its core mission, it added, “We also plan to continue aggressively advocating for reforms in the criminal justice and public records systems to protect victims and hold wrongdoers accountable.” actor.”
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