Canberra, Sep 18 (IANS) The Australian government has issued the online dating industry with an ultimatum to improve safety for users or face greater regulation.
Michelle Rowland, the federal Minister for Communications, and Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth on Monday issued a demand that dating services implement a new voluntary code of practice by the middle of 2024.
If a new code is not agreed to by the industry, Rowland said in a joint statement with Rishworth on Monday that the government would pursue legislative options to improve safety for users of dating services.
“Dating apps are now the most common way to meet a partner in Australia, yet the level of violence experienced by users of these platforms is deeply concerning. Online dating platforms must do their part to end violence against Australians,” she said.
“That is why I have decided to provide members of the online dating industry with an opportunity to work together to address the government’s concerns.”
Research published by the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) in October 2022 found that 75 per cent of Australian users had been subjected to some form of sexual violence facilitated via online dating services in the previous five years.
The government in January brought representatives from the dating industry together with experts, advocacy groups, and law enforcement agencies for the National Roundtable on Online Dating Safety.
Rowland and Rishworth said in Monday’s joint statement that many services have taken steps to protect users since January’s meeting, but their efforts vary in effectiveness.
“There is no arbitrary line between online and offline in our lives anymore. Abuse can cross between them like osmosis,” Rishworth said.
“We need to ensure that our community, including dating app users, know what it means to be respectful online, what kinds of behaviors are unacceptable, and the consequences for unacceptable behaviors.”