Dating app Bumble to ban users for body shaming

Sarah Marsh
·2 min read
<span>Photograph: Jaap Arriens/Alamy</span>
Photograph: Jaap Arriens/Alamy

The dating app Bumble will ban users if they are deemed to be “body-shaming” others in their profile details or in conversation with potential partners.

It comes amid growing concern about abuse on dating apps. One in four (23%) of people in Briton have been body-shamed online on a dating app or social media, according to a Bumble survey of 1,003 people.

Additionally, 54% of people said they are less likely to feel good after spending an extended amount of time on the internet. Body shaming makes people feel self-conscious (35%), insecure (33%) and angry (25%).

Bumble, which allows women to choose who they want to talk to, will use an algorithm to flag terms that are deemed derogatory in terms of mocking an aspect of someone’s physical appearance. This will include language that is fatphobic, racist, or homophobic.

Moderators will then look through the accounts that have been flagged to determine whether any further action, such as that user being banned, needs to take place.

Bumble said it is updating guidelines for its content moderators to provide specific guidance around body shaming. People who use language that falls into this category in their profile or through the app’s chat function will first receive a warning for their inappropriate behaviour. If there are repeated incidents or particularly harmful comments, Bumble will permanently remove them from the app.

Moderators will also share resources to help the individual learn how to change their behaviour to be less harmful to others in the future.

Naomi Walkland, Bumble’s head of UK and Ireland said they wanted to create “a kinder, more respectful and more equal space on the internet. Key to this has always been our zero-tolerance policy for racist and hate-driven speech, abusive behaviour and harassment.”

She said she felt that this change would make it clear “body shaming was not acceptable on Bumble”.

In 2019, Bumble introduced a feature that uses artificial intelligence to automatically detect and blur unsolicited nude images. It alerts the recipient who can choose to view, delete or report the image.

Bumble is also reviewing its photo moderation policy, the app said. In 2016, the company banned shirtless bathroom mirror selfies and indoor photos in swimsuits and bras. The company is now reviewing its photo guidelines and will be updating these.

In a 2016 Consumers’ Research survey of dating app users, more than half of women reported experiencing harassment, compared with 20% of men. In a 2017 Pew survey, 21% of women aged 18 to 29 reported being sexually harassed online, compared with 9% of men in the same age group.

Platforms such as Facebook and Google are increasingly using automated intelligence to stage more direct interventions with toxic users and remove violating content. Instagram, for example, recently introduced a feature that detects bullying language and asks users, “Are you sure you want to post this?”