Briefing: Gay dating app Blued accused of turning blind eye to underage users

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In-Depth: China’s Leading Gay Dating App Navigates Rough Waters – Caixin Global

What happened: A researcher has accused popular LGBT dating app Blued of not adequately enforcing its ban on underage users, putting teenagers at risk of online exploitation. The live-streaming portion of the app currently requires real-name registration, but other parts do not. Over a 10-month investigation, Chinese LGBT researcher Zhang Beichuan reported some young users had been pressured into having sex with older men or had even contracted HIV from partners encountered through the app. One user also told Caixin that Blued had failed to shutter a 12-year-old’s account after it was discovered that he was underage. On Sunday, Blued said it would freeze new user registration for a week while it conducts an internal investigation. It is unclear how many people were included in Zhang’s study. He has not published his findings.

Why it’s important: With 40 million registered users, Blued plays a significant role in China, where stigmas against LGBT individuals persist in all but the most cosmopolitan areas. It also faces the somewhat unique dilemma of seeking to provide a safe space for all, while also protecting vulnerable users. Before the news broke, founder and former policeman Ma Baoli had planned for his company to go public. The investigation and ensuing revelations, however, show that the internet company, like tech giants from Didi to Tencent, still has a ways to go before it can convince consumers that it has their best interests at heart.