Dating app Tinder has really caught on in Nigeria. It has gone from this dodgy app expatriates use to solicit for sex workers into a proper avenue for people who do not have the energy or patience for guess work to meet and match with other people who share their sexual or romantic proclivities. While Tinder is an ‘inclusive’ app, it has largely ignored the significant LGBT demographic of its users, especially users who either routinely visit or live in countries where homosexuality is outlawed or punishable by law. These archaic laws put people in danger, and while Tinder doesn’t directly out its users, the app layout (Tinder connects to either your Facebook or Instagram account) and user interface (you are required to use face pictures) mean that people who choose the app often have to weigh the risk of getting exposed or exploited with their desire to meet and match with someone new.
In a roundabout way, Tinder is finally responding to this very real conundrum by introducing new ‘travel’ settings for its app. It has integrated a ‘Traveller Alert’ function on the app that alerts people who travel from countries where homosexuality is legalized to countries where expressions of sexuality and gender identity are criminalized. ILGA World was instrumental to helping choose which locations in which Traveler Alert will appear and updated their app policy to include Safety Tips for tourists and immigrants visiting these regions.
As far as functionality goes, there are still some concerns. Tinder still requires you to input your personal information and make that information visible to others in these countries, even though they will automatically hide your profile in these locations if your setting suggests you are looking for a same sex pairing. It will also prevent others from matching with you, ensuring you have some control over who you decide to start talking to. Gender and Identity will also be obscured for people who are visiting these LGBT un-safe areas.
What then about the people who actually live in these areas and want to connect on Tinder. What happens to them?
Maybe Tinder can take a lesson or two from Grindr. They might be accused of a buggy app, but at least they know how high the stakes are to have a safe one.
Edwin Okolo is an author and journalist who has worked with YNaija, TheNativemag and the Naked Convos.