Tinder to Bumble: Shraddha Walker’s murder case makes women think twice about swiping right


meIn India, every time a woman swipes on a dating app, excitement and hope are tinged with fear. This fear is now compounded in the wake of Shraddha Walker’s murder. Her partner, Aftab Amin Poonawalla, whom she met on Bumble, has been arrested for murder and, according to police, cutting her body into 35 pieces that they say he kept in the fridge of their Mehrauli home.

But what has made the app dating more terrifying is that police claim that Aftab invited a woman to his house on a date while Shraddha’s body parts were in the fridge. This puts the spotlight on the mechanisms available to women to report their dating partners and their experiences with them.

The horror stories

When dating apps first burst onto the scene, starting with Tinder in 2012, they promised to demystify and democratize the dating game. But today, people tread these digital parks carefully.

In a 2019 report by ProPublica and Columbia Journalism Investigations published in the United States, “more than a third of the 1,200 women surveyed said they had been sexually assaulted by someone they met through a dating app. “Of these women, more of half said they had been raped.”

Many women from Hinge, Tinder, Bumble and Aisle spoke to ThePrint about their experiences of stalking, harassment, assault and even rape.

“I was seeing an ad maker for about three months in 2019 and it fizzled out in July. I forgot about him and started dating someone else,” recalls the Mumbai-based filmmaker. “Over Christmas, the man turned up at my door and insisted on going upstairs. It was 11:30 at night and I asked him to leave early, but he started drinking alcohol,” she said, adding that he “kept yelling” about how he had told his mother.

A Calcutta professional remembers meeting a woman in Aisle and reporting him to the company authorities. “This was in 2018 and Aisle was fairly new. A representative named Sneha contacted me and asked me to share my ‘love story’ with them. I approached the same representative with information about the “man. But no action was taken against him. He was an army officer,” he says.

That said, not all complaints go unheard.

“She was raped by a man I met on Hinge. I had written a request and to my surprise they responded instantly. They told me that they had blocked the profile and offered legal assistance. It was a very reassuring experience,” said a writer from New Delhi. Hinge responded to the infringement complaint within minutes on June 6, 2022, according to screenshots of the email seen by ThePrint. “If you report this incident to law enforcement, we will be happy to assist you with any investigation,” wrote a Hinge spokesperson, who signed his name as Alfonso.

But there’s nothing stopping perpetrators from moving on to the next dating platform. ThePrint reached out to Tinder, Hinge and Bumble to find out how many incidents of sexual assault and crime have been reported in 2022 and what, if any, action they took.

Tinder says it has a “dedicated team” to deal with such reports and “works closely with law enforcement.” Bumble also says it was “devastated” to learn of Walker’s death and listed the mechanisms it has in place to keep its users safe. But neither Tinder nor Bumble shared data on the number of complaints they’ve received this year or the accounts they’ve blacklisted. The hinge has yet to respond.

Delhi Police has registered 284 cases of financial fraud committed through dating apps and 5 cases of rape/assault/attempted rape since 2020.

Read also: Indians caught up in the gory details of the Shraddha Walker murder case are losing sight of the facts

Security and safety in applications

Dating apps didn’t give birth to online love. People have been chasing their ‘Bollywood’ love stories ever since they could instant message on the internet. But what online dating platforms have introduced is the ability to have offline conversations and meet for dates.

This makes women, non-binary people and homosexuals vulnerable to abuse. And apps often don’t play an active role in ensuring safety once you leave the chat box, even though major dating sites have elaborate safety features for users.

Bumble is marketed as a feminist app where the power to start the conversation is in the hands of the woman. It verifies photos to confirm user profiles and gives a “blue check” to verified ones. The app has banned photos of guns and weapons in profile pictures and has a private detector feature that automatically blurs lewd images.

Hinge promises quick action on a report. “The moment someone is reported, we make sure you never see the other person’s profile again. Reports are anonymous to protect your safety,” its security guidelines say.

Report to the hinge resolution policy | Hinge website

The app has also made active efforts to provide information to its members if the match has been found to be fraudulent.

Screenshot by special arrangementScreenshot by special arrangement

Niche apps like Truly Madly, with 11 million registered users in India, offer the option to verify profiles using government IDs. “Everyone is required to provide photo verification, but if the user provides a government ID, their profile is considered more trustworthy and more visible to other users,” said Snehil Khanor, founder and CEO of the dating app .

Khanor added that making a profile on the platform is not easy and the app has an acceptance rate of only 42 percent as a result of the grueling filtering mechanisms, which reduce the chances of impersonation.

Resolution processes can sometimes be perceived as opaque, and emails from dating sites often end up in the spam folder. To make the process more transparent, Tinder has introduced a progress bar for in-app reports where users can track the resolution. The new feature gives users more confidence when dating experiences.

Match Group, Tinder’s parent company, also claims to have invested $125 million to make online dating a safer experience and employs 450 people who are solely focused on building Tinder’s trust and safety portfolio .

Read also: Many Indian men are okay with their partner’s sexual history as long as they don’t know the details

It’s not the first time

Despite all the safety features in place, online dating can go wrong very quickly, even for men. In 2018, Priya Seth was accused of murdering Dushyant Sharma, a man who posed as a millionaire on Tinder. But these cases are very few. Often, it is the vulnerable groups who end up being the victims.

Sextortion has also become everything common on dating apps – One of the emerging cons used by cyber crooks sitting in Jamtara of Jharkhand and Mewat of Haryana.

India has 31 million dating app users. A report from Brigham Young University in the United States Found that “violent sexual predators are using these apps to target women with vulnerabilities such as mental illness.”

The recent Netflix docuseries Tinder Swindler also highlighted the dangers of meeting the perfect prince charming on the app; in reality, he might be a frog after your money. Stories from India version of fraudsters are also cause for alarm. Members of the LGBTQIA+ community have been subjected targeted abuse through dating apps like Grindr.

Walker’s murder just reinvigorated all those fears users have about dating apps. “Sometimes I’m reckless and invite people to my house even on the first or second date because going out is so expensive,” said a 25-year-old advertising professional who did not want to be named. “Now, I’d rather have a decade of drought than jump back on Hinge, Bumble, or any other dating app,” she said.

With contributions from Bismee Taskin.

(Edited by Humra Laeeq)

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