Grindr disappears from Apple’s App Store in China amid anti-LGBTQ+ crackdown

The queer hookup app was pulled from mobile download stores days ahead of the Beijing Winter Olympics

Grindr has disappeared from mobile stores in China, just days ahead of the Beijing Winter Olympics. 

The popular queer hookup app was removed from Apple’s App Store on Jan. 27, meaning there is no longer a way to download it onto iOS devices. NBC News reports Grindr has also been removed from Android stores in the country. 

Google’s Play Store does not operate in China, so these digital storefronts are run by Chinese corporations like Huawei and Tencent. 

The operators of Grindr reportedly pulled the app of their own volition. A spokesperson for the company cited difficulties in complying with China’s Personal Information Protection Regulation, a law that limits what personal information apps can store and requires governmental approval to transfer data internationally, according to Bloomberg

Some Grindr users in China reported connectivity issues in the weeks prior to the app’s removal, including the inability to add “likes” or exchange messages. It is unclear whether removing the app from digital stores means Grindr will also stop providing service to users who have already downloaded the app. 

Other Grindr competitors, such as China-based gay networking apps Blued and Aloha, remain available to download from Apple and Android stores in the country.

The timing of Grindr’s disappearance from the digital marketplace is significant. Last week, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) announced a month-long campaign to target “ill-natured” activities and cultivate a “healthy” environment for Chinese New Year and the upcoming Beijing Olympics, according to a statement.

Although Grindr’s operators chose to remove the app rather than having it be banned, the move comes at a time when the Chinese  government is targeting LGBTQ+ visibility. In the past year alone, the Chinese government has cracked down on LGBTQ+ students on social media, banned depictions of feminine men on television and refused to approve video games featuring “effeminate males.” 

LGBT Rights Advocacy China, a leading non-profit in the country, shut down operations in November as a result of increasing pressure placed on LGBTQ+ people in the country. 

Even though homosexuality has been legal in China since 1997 and trans people are able to change their gender markers after undergoing surgery, there are almost no protections in the country for LGBTQ+ people at any level. Surveys suggest that the vast majority LGBTQ+ people in China are reluctant to come out


Grindr is just the latest in a long line of companies that have come into conflict with China’s tech regulation laws. For instance, both the New York Times app and, a crowdsourced map of Hong Kong, were removed by Apple for violating local laws. The Pocket Cast podcast app, meanwhile, was removed by Apple after Chinese authorities determined it could be used to access illegal content. 

Grindr has been criticized in the past for how it handles user data. A 2018 BuzzFeed investigation found that the app was sharing its users’ HIV status with two app optimization companies. Grindr stopped the practice days after the news report was published.

In 2019, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. (CFIUS) raised concerns that the company’s handling of data could pose a national security risk and pressured its then-owners, privately held Chinese gaming company Beijing Kunlun Tech, to divest from Grindr. Grindr was sold to U.S.-based San Vicente Acquisition in 2020. (CFIUS was criticized at the time for perpetuating Sinophobic and homophobic attitudes in its report.)

More recently, Grindr was fined 65 million Norwegian krone ($9.4 million CAD) in December 2021 for violating parts of Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation law and sharing users’ sexual orientation with advertisers without consent.

Pink Triangle Press, which publishes Xtra, owns the dating site Squirt, which is a competitor to Grindr.

V.S. Wells

V. S. Wells is a British writer living in Vancouver, B.C., with bylines in Slate, VICE and Autostraddle. Please stop asking them about Brexit.

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