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Dating apps are being used to facilitate the sexual exploitation of children, according to a revealing report released by the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC).

Approximately one in eight Australians using dating apps in the past five years have been contacted on the platform to facilitate child sexual exploitation. This includes users being asked for sexual information about their child or a child they know, for sexual videos and pictures, to meet the child in person, or for access via a webcam.

Attorney General Mark Dreyfus called the findings “deeply alarming”. He advised that the AIC’s research would inform policy responses and the work of the Australian Federal Police, other law enforcement agencies, and the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation.

“I thank the Australian Institute of Criminology for this important work, which lays out the extent of dating app-facilitated sexual abuse and violence in Australia for the first time,” said Dreyfus in a statement.

Attorney General Mark Dreyfus Attorney General Mark Dreyfus

Platforms which bring together strangers have an important role to play in facilitating safe connections and not providing new avenues for perpetrators to exploit and harm others.

Dreyfus said the “User beware” approach was not an adequate measure to keep users safe on dating apps. He called for developers to adopt safety-by-design principles to prevent harm from happening in the first place.

Minister for Communications Michelle Rowland echoed Dreyfus’ outrage, calling the results “extremely concerning and completely unacceptable”.

“Australians should expect dating apps to do everything they can to keep their users safe and ensure their platforms are not being used to exploit vulnerable people, especially children,” said Rowland.

In 2021, the Australian Federal Police brought criminal proceedings against 233 people charged with 2032 offences of child exploitation. This resulted in 114 children being removed from harm.

Anyone who has been approached for child exploitation content should immediately report this to the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation. If a child is in immediate danger, call 000.
If you need support with preventing and dealing with harm caused by online abuse or illegal and restricted online content, Australia’s eSafety Commissioner can help. More information, including on where to report dating apps that fail to act on unacceptable behaviour, can be found via the eSafety Commissioner website.