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Sexual Harassment Suit At Tinder

Hot Or Not App In Hot Water

Harassment on social media is nothing new; the list of complaints by everyone from tweens to celebrities about the abuse they have received, often from strangers, is almost endless. Within that is a significant subset of sexual (usually misogynistic) abuse. On the other side are those using social media as a platform to fight such behaviour, such as the Turkish women who began a Twitter campaign against those men who invaded their personal space on public transport with the slogan “Stop spreading your legs. Don’t occupy my space.” Recently, however, the issue of sexual harassment has reached the very heart of one of the most popular new social apps, Tinder. Former vice-president of marketing for the company, Whitney Wolfe, has filed a harassment claim against the company describing a series of offences dating back to 2012.

Tinder is one of the simplest and most stream-lined of the newest crop of social networking apps: sign into it through Facebook, upload some photos and a short description, and then work your way through the other members within a defined radius of your location either ‘liking’ or ‘passing’ on them. If you both like each other, you can communicate directly.

It is perhaps little surprise that a system which operates almost entirely around snap decisions based on superficial attraction should run into difficulties of this kind. The case in question goes beyond this, however. Ms. Wolfe alleges that Chief Marketing Officer Justin Mateen called her a ‘whore’ at a company party as well as sending her a series of offensive and harassing texts, and that her complaints were dismissed when she attempted to resolve the issue within the company.

The world of social media creation and management is still almost entirely male-dominated: Bloomberg Businessweek notes that women ‘start only 3% of technology companies and are almost absent on management teams, outside of legal and marketing positions.’

By allowing their meteoric rise to be marred by such an event, Tinder has become the poster boy for a paradigm shift in the world of social media management. How they and the courts respond to Ms. Wolfe’s allegations will have far-reaching consequences for the next generation of CEOs and presidents in the world of technology.

Thus far the overwhelming success of these Silicon Valley companies has, to an extent, shielded them from the accusations of discrimination which are a regular part of discussions about more established models of business. The lawsuit against Tinder will spark a reassessment of how the employment practices of these companies are affecting those who work there, and whether the secretive and highly masculine world which they have created is sustainable in a world which is demanding more and more transparency in everything from politics to finance.

It may be that these issues are destined to be swept to the left, that people would prefer to focus on Tinder’s attractive appearance than the more complex problems behind it. At some point, however, this is a discussion which must take place, and the longer it is delayed the greater the eventual fallout is being risked. The fact that Ms. Wolfe is almost alone in her direct confrontation of the dark side of the testosterone-fuelled rise of the social media economy is telling in itself, and the real scandal is how many women in her position are being silenced or ignored.


Douglas is an English Literature graduate who has written about everything from music to food to theatre, now a content creator for Social Media Frontiers. No topic too large or too small. Follow him @DouglasAtSMF.

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Sexual Harassment Suit At Tinder Reviewed by Anonymous on Thursday, July 24, 2014 Rating: 5
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