Grindr has taken steps to inhibit the marketing of illegal drugs by users of its app, which is said to be the most widely used mobile phone hookup app for gay men in the world.
Last month WEHOville called out the West Hollywood-based company for facilitating the sale of drugs such as methamphetamine. That drug, also known as meth, Tina and T, among other terms, is considered the most addictive of all drugs. Meth addiction rates are particularly high among gay men, who make up 40% of West Hollywood’s population, and studies have shown a strong connection between use of meth and infection with HIV.
A two-month study by WEHOville of Grindr and other gay hookup apps such as Scruff, www.growlrapp.com/, MisterX and Surge, a new West Hollywood-based app, found that only Grindr allowed its users to openly include emojis and text in their profiles that indicated they were drug users or sellers. On each night it investigated, WEHOville found an average of three meth dealers among 101 local Grindr profiles during early morning hours. WEHOville negotiated sales with several of them, who quoted prices, offered payment options and offered to deliver.
Grindr also has been called out by gay publications and websites around the world for facilitating illegal drug sales. OutinPerth, an Australian gay website, last year did its own search of drug dealers on Grindr. “It didn’t take us long to find a stack of Grindr uses offering marijuana, methamphetamines and a variety of pills,” it reported. “Profiles with images of smoke, clouds and pills were easy to spot. … In their bio lines one user promoted that a delivery service was available if you placed an order, while another boasted their product was superior to other suppliers.”
In a recent effort to post a profile on Grinder, WEHOville attempted to use the “cloud” emoji, which is a well-known symbol for meth, which is ingested by smoking the drug as well as injection with a needle. An automatic message popped up from Grindr saying the addition to the profile was “censored” and not permitted. Grindr also blocked an effort to include the words such as “meth” and “parTy” (party with T, or Tina) in the profile and blocked “T4$” (Tina for sale). However Grindr’s new screening tool still doesn’t block other profile words such as the word Tina or the acronym PNP, which means “party and play” (use drugs and have sex). Its major gay hookup app competitors do block such terms.
Given Grindr’s claim of four million users in nearly 200 countries, its decision to make illegal drug sales on its app more difficult is likely to have a worldwide impact among gay men. While some have noticed that illegal drugs also can be purchased on Craigslist and elsewhere, critics of Grindr have noted the special confluence between searches for sexual encounters and drug deals that Grindr has offered and its ease of use as a mobile app.
Grindr has refused to respond to requests from WEHOville for comment on its facilitation of meth sales and more recently on its decision to inhibit such sales by screening for meth emoji and text. In a text message on Grindr last night, WEHOville congratulated Joel Simkhai, its founder, for adding that screening. Simkhai did not respond.
Over the past few weeks Mayor Lauren Meister has attempted to arrange a meeting between her and City Manager Paul Arevalo with Simkhai but to date has not been able to. Three members of the city’s Public Safety Commission — Tory Berger, Ben Coleman and Estevan Montemayor — expressed concern about meth sales through Grindr at a recent meeting, with Montemayor saying he had put the issue on the agenda with Councilmember Lindsey Horvath’s blessing.
Otherwise, the City Council, which speaks up at Council meetings and press conferences on other issues involving the worldwide LGBT community, has remained silent on this one. Councilmember John Duran, who said he is a friend of Simkhai, told WEHOville that he would talk with him but would not reveal what was said. Councilmember John D’Amico said he was waiting for the results of Meister’s still unscheduled meeting with Simkhai.