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.
I’m sorry to tell you this, but gay men were buying and using crystal meth before Grindr and will continue after Grindr. It’s really not good a good idea to single out Grindr or act as the drug police for the gay community. People can and will buy drugs if they choose too. If you want to use your platform best, don’t moralize people’s use of intoxicant’s. Let them decide for themselves. Despite what progress you think you are making, I’m sorry to say, you’re just wasting your time.
I’m sorry to tell you this, but Grindr (was) the only major gay hookup app that didn’t screen profiles for text and emoji that signaled drug sales. Scruff didn’t monitor conversations to stop guys from agreeing to “party.” But in contrast to Grindr it did monitor profiles to prevent promotion of the illegal sale of the most addictive and destructive drug ever. Now that Grindr has come around, it’s going to be a little harder for drug dealers to target the gay market than it was on the most popular gay hookup app in the world. Those who want to… Read more »
Zem, you have no “First Amendment rights to free speech” on somebody else’s software. In fact, you are in a TOS (terms of service) violation for advertising drug sales and/or use
Numerous people here are getting off the subject, that being narcotic use, possession and sale are illegal. ANYTHING illegal taking place through an app should be screened out, that is a basic responsibility of business ownership. It has nothing to do with censorship. So you name it, drug use, gun sales, prostitution, child exploitation, murder for hire, WHATEVER…if it’s illegal, the business should not be facilitating it and if they cannot stop such facilitation, they should not be allowed to do business.
Well stated Zam!
This is just playing whack a mole. The dealers will find new ways. And in the meantime it censors users who are not even using drugs.
Seems like a lot of effort for a “feel good” form of censorship that does not actually get to the root problem of the issue – ADDICTION. Issues like this are better off handled by healthcare providers and the state to address and support recovery methods for addicts. There are also plenty of sex addicts on Grindr – how do we go about censoring or policing that for “public safety”?
Julius, thank you. And Rw, I’m not imagining a scenario where someone who hasn’t done drugs before inquires about PNP. I’m talking about someone who has recently experimented with the drug, who then finds himself pining for it, and finding Grindr to be a marketplace for finding it. This isn’t about shaming drug users. It is also not about censoring people’s private conversations, who want to PNP. Its about protecting people, and making it just a little more difficult to find meth, instead of just having the attitude that “those that want it will find it.” That argument has about… Read more »
Julius – you are correct, this article was not shaming drug users or addicts, but much of what is written about what meth addiction looks like creates an extreme version that undermines those struggling from seeking help. And I agree, we cannot only focus on treatment and support – we absolutely have to focus on the source as well. But as someone who works in treatment, I can assure you that the “tweaked out” stereotype we so often mock is the extreme version and not representative of the majority of people struggling with this drug. The more we continue to… Read more »
Mr. SE. The article I read didn’t shame drug users or addicts. It shamed Grindr for letting drug dealers sell a really dangerous product to vulnerable gay men. The dealers pocket the money, our friends suffer. We have to offer the users help. But Hank Scott at the gym yesterday told me that focusing only on treatment and support is like making sure you have good hospitals and not worrying about car wrecks and gun shootings. Hey. Long as there is hospital caare, why does it matter how badly you’re injured by that gun, right?
Mr. Neal. that story didn’t talk about censoring people’s posts or text back and forth. it talked about not letting drug dealers say on their profiles that they are selling drugs. Maybe you should go back and read it, slowly. So yeah, guys can text each other and agree to hookup and use drugs. a guy looking for a dealer is gonna have to start a lot of conversations to find one. Think of looking for a barber shop on a street where the stores have no signs.
These recent articles bring attention back to a major ongoing drug issue in our community that we have had a terrible time managing. There are multiple factors that contribute to the problem, but something that I find incredibly sad and disturbing is the ongoing shaming of meth addicts/abusers in articles and comments. We have marginalized users of this drug, described them as dirty, sketchy, weak, disease-ridden sex addicts and then wonder why they’re so difficult to treat. It is also completely misrepresenting the abundance of meth abusers, many of whom are high-functioning professionals who then feel too ashamed to identify… Read more »
Randy, how will censoring Grindr prevent experimenting with drugs? In the current form, if someone mentions PNP, etc. in their post, the “naive” guy is given the opportunity to ask what is PNP. If censored, he now doesn’t fine out until he’s sitting in some dude apartment maybe after a couple of beers. Bottom line, those who want to experiment will. The best approach is education.