A lot of people have done dating experiments on Tinder, like wearing a fat suit and seeing how many people will go to a frozen yogurt shop to meet a girl. This latest one, however, will send a chill down your spine. A Melbourne-based group have created The Tinder Experiment, where they confront the people who are using the app to groom underage girls into having sex.
The creators of The Tinder Experiment – who do not wish to be identified – said that they started the experiment after noticing an “alarming amount” of inappropriate content in the app. In addition to underage girls, the creators said that they also found prostitution and illicit drug trafficking on the app.
“As Tinder users ourselves, we noticed an alarming amount of inappropriate content in the app and wanted to gain a greater understanding of the mindset of people participating in such things,” the creators said.
“We thought that this particular issue [older men meeting underage girls] was an important one so we tackled it first.”
They made a profile of an 15-year-old girl named “Imogen” (who is actually a 21-year-old actress). The profile claimed that she was 18, but in the bio noted that she was actually 15 because she set her age wrong on Facebook. The creators swiped right to every person they came across, and told everyone who swiped right back that she was underage.
Some unmatched her instantly, but others were not deterred by the age.
In the first episode, the creators posted an image claiming Imogen was home alone, in which they received multiple replies from men asking if she wanted company. They then invited two men – a 31-year-old and a 43-year-old – to an address with hidden cameras set up. The idea was to capture the reactions after being caught by the brother “Blake” (played by another unnamed actor).
The second episode sees Imogen meeting a 42-year-old man called Tobias after he invited her to his apartment for “no string attached fun”. According to the creators, the idea was to have Imogen lure the man where the hidden cameras were, and see his reaction when the brother caught them. However, they were unable to get him to the location and instead the confrontation was recorded on audio.
After the confrontation, Tobias messages “Imogen” the next day and asks to meet up again.
What they do is potentially dangerous, especially given that one of the men could potentially harm someone. The creators, however, say that they do their best to ensure everyone involved in The Tinder Experiment is safe.
“There’s always a minimum of 4 of us there. We always have a man close to Imogen (usually concealed within 3 metres) in case there’s an urgent need to diffuse a situation. Violence is not something we ever want to encounter but we’re confident in restraining anyone in a matter of seconds,” the creators said.
“Yes, it’s still risky, but we’re all aware of that risk and willing to participate.”
Tinder’s age problem
Tinder does allow underage people use the app, with the minimum age to create an account is just 13. This puts it in stark contrast to many other dating apps – like OKCupid and Grindr – where the minimum age is 18.
In fact, according to Tinder’s own numbers, seven percent of its total user base is between the age of 13 and 17. Its former co-founder Justin Mateen defended the move to the Times newspaper, saying that there was “nothing wrong with 13 and 17-year-olds making friends and connecting with new people on Tinder.”
It should be noted that Tinder only lets those registered as being underage interact with other underage people only. However, it does not stop those underage creating a fake Facebook profile, claim to be 18 or above, and use that to create a Tinder profile to meet older people.
It also does not stop pedophiles from creating fake profiles, claim to be underage, and use that to create a Tinder profile to interact with users aged between 13 and 17. In 2012, a similar geolocation dating app Skout was forced to remove underage users from the service after three men were arrested and accused of raping children found using the app. The men reportedly pretended to be teenagers.
When I asked the creators about what they think Tinder should do about the age problem in relation to their experiment, they said that they should manually review profiles for inappropriate behaviour and content.
“[We] think that Tinder should be more vigilant with the content on their app. They need to manually review all profiles for inappropriate content, including the “moments” that people post,” the creators said.
“Tinder have revealed that they’re planning to become a profitable app in the near future. Hopefully this allows for more money in the budget to address such issues.”
A legal grey area
The men are not identifiable in all the videos published. The creators have removed addresses, telephone numbers and their full names. They also say that all messages were not taken out of context; that they never initiated the conversations; and that no promise, encouragement, or consent was given.
They have also not made any reports to the police.
“There’s a lot of legal issues with what we’re doing if we go about it the wrong way. We’ve sought help from a legal aid and been advised not to file any reports because there’s not much we can get them for, and in fact, we could get ourselves into trouble instead,” the creators said.
“When you lure someone in and prosecute them for committing a crime that they otherwise would not have committed then you’re getting into ‘entrapment’ territory. Whilst we don’t think that we’re exactly encouraging them to do anything, it’s a grey area and it’s best to be avoided altogether.”
In a statement, Victoria Police said they have been made aware of the video and are investigating its contents.
“We do not condone the actions shown in this clip and urge anyone with information regarding child exploitation activity to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000,” a spokesperson said.