Dating platforms Tinder and Grindr will be asked to explain to UK lawmakers how they protect children after an investigation conducted by the Sunday Times this weekend revealed that minors are being put at risk of sexual exploitation by the apps.
In a story that featured on the front page of the paper yesterday, the Times told readers that it had discovered that British investigators have probed over 30 cases of child rape since 2015 in which victims were attacked after they bypassed age checks on the dating platforms.
Police documents seen by the paper after it submitted a freedom of information request reveal that insufficient age restrictions put in place by dating platforms used by millions of people worldwide are offering paedophiles easy access to children in the UK, who are able to set up profiles on the apps with few age checks.
In one incident, a 13-year-old boy is said to have been either raped or sexually abused by at least 21 men after his abusers got in touch with him through Grindr.
Other cases uncovered by the paper involved children as young as eight being exposed to grooming, kidnapping and violent sexual assault through dating apps.
Responding to the paper’s findings, UK Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright said he found its revelations “truly shocking”, and promised that he would write to the companies behind these dating platforms to demand information on what they are doing to make sure children are safe.
In a statement, Grindr said: “Any account of sexual abuse or other illegal behaviour is troubling to us as well as a clear violation of our terms of service.
“Our team is constantly working to improve our digital and human screening tools to prevent and remove improper underage use of our app.”
A Tinder spokesperson said: “We utilise a network of industry-leading automated and manual moderation and review tools, systems and processes – and spend millions of dollars annually – to prevent, monitor and remove minors and other inappropriate behaviour from our app. We don’t want minors on Tinder.”
Crimes linked to dating apps such as Tinder and Grindr are reported to have been on the rise for some years now, raising questions as to whether the companies behind them are doing enough to crack down on illegal activity carried out through their networks.
Back in , the Press Association reported that police had revealed that crimes potentially linked to Tinder and Grindr had risen more than sevenfold over the preceding two years.
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Buyers on eBay are being duped into purchasing substandard and counterfeit products due to a flaw in the online auction platform’s seller feedback system, according to an investigation conducted by UK consumer group Which?
The watchdog found that dishonest vendors can take advantage of these flaws by linking positive reviews of genuine products manufactured by companies such as Apple and Samsung to fake and low-quality items.
Which? found that crooked sellers are able to link thousands of positive reviews to eBay listings they have nothing to do with.
The organisation discovered that real reviews can be associated with fake products that are potentially dangerous, such as counterfeit mobile phone chargers that can pose a fire risk.
Sellers are able to do this by using “product IDs” associated with genuine items when adding their products to eBay, subsequently benefitting from the positive reviews those items have attracted.
The system is intended to make the process of listing products on eBay quicker and easier by allowing sellers to pull information from similar items that have a linked product ID.
As part of its investigation, Which? purchased 20 bogus Apple and Samsung accessories such as chargers and USB cables that were supposed to be official and shared the same reviews as products manufactured by the two technology firms
Calling for online ecommerce platforms to be held accountable for flaws in their seller feedback systems that allow dishonest vendors to pull the wool over buyers’ eyes, Head of Home Products and Services at Which? Natalie Hitchins said: “Our investigation has uncovered yet another example of online reviews being manipulated to mislead people.
“eBay’s product review system is confusing for consumers and could even direct them towards counterfeit or dangerous products sold by unscrupulous sellers.
“The [UK Competition and Markets Authority] must now investigate how fake and misleading reviews are duping online shoppers, taking the strongest possible action against sites that fail to tackle the problem.”
Responding to the findings of Which?’s investigation eBay said in a statement: “The research does not fully consider that there are distinctions between product reviews (which provide buyers with a holistic review of the same product), and seller feedback (which can be used to see specific reviews of a seller’s performance and may reflect the item’s condition).”
Earlier this month, Bloomberg reported that US politicians had called on lawmakers to hold ecommerce companies such as eBay and Amazon to account if they fail to prevent third-party vendors selling counterfeit or substandard products on their platforms.