The “Grindr” app operators are already warning their users: In Egypt, police officers are using dating profiles to persecute gay men in particular. The popular gay social networking application warned its users in Egypt, as police impersonated community members to target LGBTQ+ individuals.
It’s rare that app developers actively warn people not to use their product. Regarding platforms like TikTok, there is more discussion about the tricks they use to entice users to use them even longer. However, the operators of the dating app Grindr, which is particularly popular with queer men, now have entirely different concerns. Meanwhile, the app warns its users in Egypt about the possible consequences.
Anyone who opened Grindr recently received a notice in Egyptian and English that could not be missed: “We have been made aware that the Egyptian police are actively making arrests of gay, bi and trans people. They are using fake accounts and have also taken over accounts of real community members who have already been arrested and confiscated their phones. Please be extra careful online and offline – even with accounts that have appeared trustworthy in the past.”
Already in recent weeks, evidence has accumulated that police in Egypt are specifically using online platforms to target queer people. The exact number of arrests is not yet known. According to media reports, Grindr has hundreds of thousands of users in Egypt. Legally, homosexuality is not illegal in Egypt. However, authorities often use accusations such as “fornication” or “violation of public decency” to prosecute lesbians, gays, trans people and others from the LGBTQIA+ community.
In February, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) published a report on the persecution of queer people in the Middle East and Maghreb countries. The document listed 45 cases in which people had been persecuted, tortured, publicly outed or arrested based on activities on platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Grindr. HRW accuses tech companies of failing to protect their users adequately. Content in Arabic is not sufficiently screened, the report said.
The report cites the case of a 27-year-old Egyptian man as an example. Police had arrested him after a date on Grindr, it said. The officers held him without food or drink and beat him until he confessed to his alleged “debauchery,” he said. It later turned out that his supposed dating partner was one of the officers, he said.