Grindr is trying to stop LGBTQ2S+ athletes from being outed during the Winter Olympics

After numerous privacy violations in years past, Grindr is taking extra steps to ensure the safety of LGBTQ2S+ Olympians

Amid the queerest Winter Olympics in history, Grindr has taken several steps to shield LGBTQ2S+ athletes from being targeted or outed on its platform.

On Feb. 8, the app disabled its “Explore” feature in the Beijing Olympic Village to protect the privacy of queer and trans athletes, according to tech news site The Verge.

This means that Grindr users outside the Olympic Village can’t use the feature to track down athletes, but users participating in the 2022 Games can still use the platform to find people “nearby.”

After logging into Grindr,  users within the Village will reportedly receive a message  about how their privacy is important to the company and assuring them that those outside of their “immediate area can’t browse here.”

“We want Grindr to be a space where all queer athletes, regardless of where they’re from, feel confident connetion with one another while they’re in the Olympic Village,” Jack Harrison-Quintana, director of Grindr for Equality, the app’s non-profit arm, said in a statement to Bloomberg.

The move follows several instances in which Grindr was exploited to endanger the lives of LGBTQ2S+ Olympians. During last year’s Summer Olympics in Tokyo, TikTok users reportedly used Grindr’s “Explore” function to uncover the identities of queer and trans athletes competing in the Games. Several accounts shared the profiles and identifying information of athletes, many of whom were competing on behalf of countries where homosexuality is banned.

Grindr condemned the doxxing of LGBTQ2S+ Olympians at the time and demanded  that TikTok and Twitter users “remove their social media posts that include images from the Grindr platform,” according to the queer news outlet MetroWeekly. Twitter issued a statement saying the posts violated its rules against hateful content and would be removed, though it’s unclear if any of the posts were taken down.

The posts weren’t the first time that LGBTQ2S+ Olympians were put in harm’s way. A 2016 Daily Beast report on Olympians using apps like Grindr, Jack’d and Tinder to hook up during the Summer Olympics in Rio came under intense scrutiny after author Nico Hines, who is straight, published identifying information of athletes whose profiles he discovered. The story was ultimately removed, and both the reporter and the outlet apologized.

Amini Fonua, a former Olympic swimmer hailing from Tonga, said at the time that the report brought him to “tears.” “It’s still illegal to be gay in Tonga, and while I’m strong enough to be me in front of the world, not everybody is,” he wrote in a series of tweets. “Respect that.”

 

Outing LGBTQ2S+ Olympians can be particularly harmful for those representing nations where being queer or trans is punishable by death. Ten countries that mandate capital punishment for expressions of homosexuality were permitted to participate in last year’s Tokyo Games, leading Olympic diver Tom Daley to call on the Olympics to ban countries from competing that outlaw LGBTQ+ identities.

While China’s laws don’t explicitly target queer and trans people, its political leaders have been criticized for censoring the country’s LGBTQ+ community. Last year, one of China’s largest social media platforms, WeChat, reportedly deleted dozens of LGBTQ+-focused accounts run by college students, in what is believed to be a co-ordinated effort by the government to crackdown on LGBTQ+ people. Soon after, Chinese media regulators instituted a ban on “effeminate males” from appearing on television broadcasts.

Meanwhile, Grindr was also pulled from mobile download stores in China on Feb. 3 ahead of the Winter Olympics.

Despite China’s efforts to limit LGBTQ+ visibility, this year’s Winter Games features the largest-ever number of out athletes. At least 30 participants identify as queer or trans, including figure skater Timothy LeDuc, who is the first non-binary athlete to vie for a medal at the Winter Games. Out Olympians like bisexual speed skater Ireen Wüst and gay figure skater ​​Guillaume Cizeron have already won gold in Tokyo, with six weeks left of competition.

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

Jordan Daniels

Jordan Daniels (he/him) is a Black/Jewish/Queer writer for fashion, liberation, philanthropy, and LGBTQ+ experiences. His work has been published in The San Diego Union-Tribune, Jewish Telegraph Agency, Narratively, Wear Your Voice, eJewish Philanthropy and more. He currently lives in San Diego and speaks English.

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