“Now the report has proved my worries to be true.”
Blued, the popular Chinese dating app, has halted new registrations in order to investigate the number of underage and fake profiles on the service.
An in-depth report, published by Caixin, discovered that a growing number of underage users were able to use the service and meet up with older men. Researcher Zhang Beichuan reported that in one extreme case, an account created by a 12-year-old failed to be banned on the service despite being detected.
Blued has over 40 million registered users, 12 million of which are outside of China. The report found that some young users have met up with older men and, in some cases, had contracted HIV through meet-ups organised via the app.
A spokesperson for Blued said new user registrations would be frozen for a week as the company launches a “comprehensive content audit and regulation,” which would help crack down on the number of juvenile users posing as adults and on texts, pictures and groups that involve minors.
“Blued always forbids juveniles from logging on and using the app,” it said in a statement on Weibo, China’s alternative to Twitter.
The company added that it had enabled artificial intelligence to weed out pornographic content since last year, and vowed to further support AIDS prevention work.
“The app must take responsibility to protect minors.”
The report also associated the growing number of teens engaging in unprotected sex with other members of the dating app to a recent rise in juvenile HIV cases. Speaking to SCMP, Peng Xiaohui, from the China Sexology Association, said he had “been worrying and warning Blued’s founder to make efforts to prevent minors from using the app”.
“Now the report has proved my worries to be true. The public should respect the lawful rights and interests of the gay community. And the app must take responsibility to protect minors and abide by the law,” he added.
Beichuan’s study was conducted over a 10-month period, although it is currently unclear how many people were involved in the research. Experts on HIV/Aids prevention, a sexologist at Qingdao University and 56 health workers were involved in the research.
The Beijing-based Blued is backed by state-run media Beijing News and was founded by former policeman Ma Baoli. It’s believed that plans were in progress for the company to go public.