Blued, the world’s biggest gay dating app, says it is “investigating” allegations about underage boys on the platform.
The gay dating app, which surpassed Grindr as the world’s largest thanks to its popularity in China, faced a wave of criticism after allegations that it had failed to tackle a wave of underage users.
Chinese outlet Caixin investigated the proliferation of underage users on the app, with several teenage boys telling the publication they were pressured into sex with older men.
The app was also linked to a surge of new HIV infections in the region.
Blued needs to ‘prevent underage users’
Peng Xiaohui, from the China Sexology Association, told the South China Morning Post he had “warned Blued’s founder to make efforts to prevent minors from using the app.”
He added: “Now the report has proved my worries to be true.. the app must take responsibility to protect minors and abide by the law.”
In a statement posted on Chinese social network Weibo, Blued said: “Blued was founded to provide a more transparent, proactive and healthy online home for the minority. We have met with difficulties and challenges and we will continue improving.
“Blued has always forbidden juveniles from logging on to and using the app.”
The company said it would use “comprehensive content audit and regulation” to crack down on underage users and content involving minors.
Blued founder and CEO Ma Baoli told CNN that the app was only intended for users over 18.
He added: “What we have done on AIDS prevention is seen by all.
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“We probably are the best and we have done the most. Our priority now is to supervise and examine our content.”
Although Blued’s statement said registration would be closed to new users while its investigation is ongoing, PinkNews was still able to register a new account on the app from the UK on January 7.
Blued did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The app claims to have a total of 40 million users, with the majority of its user base in China.
Grindr is also owned by a Chinese company
Grindr, the best-known gay hook-up app in the West, is also owned by a Chinese company.
The app’s founder Joel Simkhai was bought out by China’s Kunlun Group in 2016, sparking concerns from cybersecurity experts.
Peter Mattis, a former US government intelligence analyst and China fellow at the Jamestown Foundation, told the Washington Post: “What you can see from Chinese intelligence practices is a clear effort to collect a lot of personal information on a lot of different people [in the West], and to build a database of names that’s potentially useful either for influence or for intelligence.
“Then later, when the party-state comes into contact with someone in the database, there’s now information to be pulled.”
He added that Chinese companies often face pressure to pass over data to the government for “public security” reasons, and that the acquisition of US tech companies opens the door to control by Beijing.