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How to stay safe online dating


Finding love in a modern world can be pretty challenging for anyone. For members of the LGBTQ, it is difficult to find other queer people in general. In Gibraltar, this appears to be accurate, with a shortage of safe spaces for all of us rainbow sheep to meet (however, we are working to change this). Online dating provides a simple solution to this problem. Therefore, it is no surprise that we use online dating twice as much as our heterosexual cisgender friends! There are many things I wish I had known before starting to use dating apps, things I wish I had been more aware of and how best to protect myself from danger. So, with that in mind, here are some things I wish I had been more aware of before creating a profile.


Fake accounts


There are a lot of dangerous online beliefs, the most obvious being fake accounts. Like with Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, it's better to say that online dating platforms have their fair share of fake accounts. If you suspect an account to be fake, the obvious thing to do is to report it. Most of these accounts are pretty easy to spot as they typically do not have many photos or social media attached. However, if you have been talking to somebody for a while and plan to meet them, always let a friend or family member know where you are going!

This should be the case for all dates regardless of whether they are who they say they are. It is always good to have a friend nearby and on hand in case you need to make a swift exit. Update them on your date and whereabouts, and let them know when you got home safely. Just because a person's face matches the proper picture doesn't always mean they are not dangerous to you. But other than that, try your best to enjoy your dates when they are good ones!


Underaged users


In the same way that there are fake accounts, there are also people who lie about their age. Apps like Tinder use Facebook verification to confirm users' ages. However, nothing prevents a person from creating a new email with a new Facebook and online dating account. As a teenager, my gay friends had Grindr accounts to meet people in an attempt to connect with other gay people. They saw many people their age having relationships, and they wanted that too and made accounts because they had known loneliness. We have a responsibility to keep younger members of our community safe. If you see a young person that you know online, there are a few courses of action you can aka:


1. If you know this young person is out to their parents, you could call them and tell them that you found their child on an online dating site. These conversations can be tricky, and it's safe to say that parents know their children best and would probably like to be aware of what is going on to protect their children and provide them with the support they need. It is not always our place to educate people; a parent might not want you to educate their children.


2. If you don't know whether or not this person is out to their family, there is another course of action you can take. The easiest way to keep these people safe is to report their accounts like a Facebook account. Once you put them as underage, they will be blocked from using the app to access their account for a few months or years. It is quick and easy to do, and it's the best course of action if you're uncomfortable talking to someone.


However, if you are a young person looking to socialise in an LGBTQ-friendly space, I highly recommend joining one of the local youth clubs. Many community members have found a safe space, particularly in the Laguna youth club. The youth workers do an incredible job of creating a safe space for young people. For more information, please visit www. youth.gi


Location tracking


It's not a secret that dating apps keep track of your location. This feature is essential as it shows users profiles of people who are geographically close to them. While swiping through other people's profiles, we tend to give very little thought to the fact that other people can see and find us, too. Although essential for dating apps to run, this feature can also put us at significant risk. Just as apps can help people find dates, they can also help crazy ex's and homophobes find you!

In 2016, a New Yorker named Matthew Herrick was stalked and harassed by his ex-boyfriend. His ex-partner impersonated Herrick online to arrange sex dates with over a thousand men! These men were sent to Herrick's home and workplace expecting sex and or drugs. This was all made possible due to Grindr's Geolocating tech. Herrick reported this issue to Grindr over 100 times with little help. Grindr later faced a court order to exclude Matthew's ex from using their product. Grindr said they did not have the technology to be able to do this despite them owning the patent for geolocating technology!


Be mindful of what you share online. Don't send or take provocative photos of yourself. Not everyone will go to the extreme of Matthew's ex. However, there are dangerous people in the world, and we do not want to give any of them easy access to our private domain. We need to protect ourselves and our image. If a person you are dating\ talking to really likes you and respects you, they shouldn't mind you wanting until you are comfortable being intimate in person.


Using dating apps while travelling


If you are planning to go on holiday this year or travel a lot for work, there is one extra thing you have to check. What are the laws of the country or countries you plan to visit? Homosexuality is outlawed in 64 countries worldwide, where you can face jail time or, in some places, the death penalty! About half of these countries are in Africa, so you shouldn't worry as much while travelling through Western Europe, but it is still good to check. For example, if you are going to or passing through a country like Egypt, I highly recommend deleting the app from your phone! Whether you plan to meet anyone or not doesn't matter. Police make online dating accounts to make arrests. If you have been active on your account at some point (even if just a couple of days before), your profile will still show up, and they can find you and arrest you. This is why if you go on Tinder, you will find that many LGBT Moroccan accounts do not show their face. In the Western world, people usually do this because they are cheating on someone, in an open relationship (and are afraid of judgement) or closeted and don't want to run into someone they know. Regardless, I advise you to avoid these accounts.


Choosing a venue


Finally, it has come to his! You have bagged yourself a date and are looking for somewhere to meet, and you are excited. However, even in this situation, you must still look out for yourself and the other person.

Choose to meet in a cafe or restaurant: The benefit of meeting someone for the first time in this space is safe. There are plenty of people and servers around to help you if something doesn't seem quite right or if you feel you are in immediate danger.


Meet in a space you both know and recognise: Just as you want to be safe, you also have a responsibility to ensure the other person feels comfortable. Choose a venue familiar to both of you and that you like; remember, the other person's opinion matters too.


The ultimate goal of a date is to have fun and get to know someone, which can still happen despite everything that has been said. As long as you are aware and take suitable precautions, there is no reason not to go out and enjoy yourself. We must remember not to let loneliness or desperation cloud our judgment. We must remember that our values aren't determined by whether we are in a relationship. There are people all around us who love us as we are; a relationship is just extra, and we have to be patient. Suppose you ultimately decide that online dating is not for you. In that case, I recommend participating in some of our local clubs and events, like XKIKI, LGBTQ Bookclub or for our underaged friends, going to one of our local youth clubs youth.gi.


You can also share your idea for a club or event with us by contacting us at gibraltarlgbtcommittee@gmail.com


 

References


LGBTQ adults are using dating apps nearly twice as much as straight adults, Pew study finds


Opinion | Queer Dating Apps Are Unsafe by Design

By Ari Ezra Waldman Year: 2019 Container: The New York Times URL: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/20/opinion/queer-dating-apps.html


How Egyptian police hunt LGBT people on dating apps

By Ahmed Shihab-Eldin Year: 2023 Container: BBC News URL: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-64390817


Matthew Herrick v Grindr LLC

By Carrie Goldberg Year: 2018 Container: Sexual Assault, Stalking, Blackmail, Online Harassment Lawyers | C.A.Goldberg | Carrie Goldberg URL: https://www.cagoldberglaw.com/matthew-herrick-v-grindr-llc/


Herrick Vs. Grindr Is A Section 230 Case That Could Change The Internet As We Know It

By Tyler Kingkade Year: 2019 Container: BuzzFeed News Publisher: BuzzFeed News URL: https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/tylerkingkade/grindr-herrick-lawsuit-230-online-stalking


Commonwealth Summit: The Countries Where It is Illegal to be Gay

By Reality Check Team Year: 2021 Container: BBC News URL: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-43822234


Where is homosexuality illegal and punishable by death?

By Gerardo Bandera Container: FairPlanet URL: https://www.fairplanet.org/story/death-penalty-homosexualty-illegal/


Tinder, Bumble Under Investigation for Allowing Underage Users and Sex Offenders


Online Dating Apps Face Scrutiny About Underage Users, Sex Offenders


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