Local private security company, Vision Tactical, is calling on dating site Grindr to be banned in South Africa following an increase in attacks on users.
Vision Tactical's Yaseen Theba said the ban is imperative to safeguard vulnerable individuals against violence and exploitation.
The call comes following the rescue of a University of Witwatersrand student who was allegedly kidnapped in September.
According to police, the student was allegedly lured to his kidnappers via the dating site, and the suspects demanded R30,000 for his safe return.
A suspect was arrested after he went to withdraw the ransom money.
"He then led the team to Denver Men’s Hostel, where the victim, aged 18, was found bound and unconscious. Six more suspects were arrested, and the victim was rushed to hospital for medical attention," Brigadier Brenda Muridili said.
She added that a multidisciplinary team was working to determine if the suspects were linked to similar crimes in Gauteng.
The Star reported that the accused appeared in the Johannesburg Magistrate's Court on Tuesday, and the case was postponed to October 19.
Theba said there has been an alarming rise in incidents where queer men have been lured to locations only to be physically assaulted, robbed, and held hostage.
"These criminals manipulate the victims into emptying their bank accounts, often by demanding deposits or coercing them into sharing their banking information. The recent surge in such crimes is increasingly worrisome and has prompted concerns among organisations and law enforcement," he said.
Theba cautioned the LGBTQIA+ community to take measures to protect themselves and avoid falling into these scams.
He said Grindr’s susceptibility to fake profiles adds another layer of danger to the app.
"Individuals can create fictitious personas, using fake pictures and inaccurate information to lure unsuspecting users. This not only facilitates deception but also makes it difficult for users to trust the authenticity of others they may encounter on the app.
"The escalating incidents of violence and exploitation on Grindr have left many users feeling scared and apprehensive. Reports of physical assaults, robberies, and even murders highlight the urgent need for action. It is undeniable that Grindr carries inherent risks, and these risks disproportionately affect LGBTQ+ individuals who already face higher levels of violence and discrimination in society. These incidents have shed light on a dark reality: Grindr cannot provide a safe space for its users. As a result, Vision Tactical’s call for a ban on Grindr in South Africa is a necessary step towards protecting vulnerable individuals and combating these criminal activities," Theba said.
He said that although the process of getting Grindr banned from the various app stores may be arduous, he trusts that by following the process, the risks can be exposed.
Theba said while users may have alternative methods, such as downloading Grindr via a Virtual Private Network (VPN), it does not absolve the app’s responsibility for user safety. Users who resort to such methods are aware of the associated risks.
He added that it was crucial to highlight the discrepancy between these alternatives and the need for a comprehensive, regulated platform that prioritises user security.
"Recognising the potential threats users face on Grindr is of utmost importance. By advocating for the ban of this app on major app stores, we aim to shed light on the risks involved and emphasise the need for a safer environment for online dating. Comprehensive awareness campaigns and educational initiatives must be launched to empower users with the knowledge and skills necessary to identify potential risks and protect themselves. This is especially important for vulnerable individuals who may be more susceptible to manipulation and exploitation," Theba said.
In KwaZulu-Natal, four men were arrested for murder and robbery after they allegedly used a dating app to lure men to local B&Bs and rob them. The men had been using fake profiles to lure their victims and were operating in the Durban North, uMhlanga, and Ballito areas.