Egyptian Police Using Grindr To Target Gay Men

Egyptian Police Using Grindr To Target Gay Men
Image: Photo by Tarun Anand Giri on Unsplash

Popular gay dating app Grindr has issued a warning to its users in Egypt, following reports that police are using the app to impersonate and target gay and bisexual men and trans women. 

Upon opening the app, users in Egypt will see a warning appear in Arabic and English: 

“We have been alerted that Egyptian police are actively making arrests of gay, bi, and trans people on digital platforms. They are using fake accounts and have also taken over accounts from real community members who have already been arrested and had their phones taken. 

Please take extra caution online and offline, including with accounts that may have seemed legitimate in the past.”

Digital Targeting Of LGBTQI Persons

Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report in February,  documenting several instances of government officials across the Middle East and North Africa region targeting LGBTQI+ people based on their online activity on digital platforms. 

The report, titled “‘All This Terror Because of a Photo’: Digital Targeting and Its Offline Consequences for LGBT People in the Middle East and North Africa,” examines the use of digital targeting by security forces in five countries: Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Tunisia. 

According to the report, security forces employed digital targeting methods to gather evidence and prosecute LGBTQI+ people. 

Queer people have been reportedly subject to online extortion, online harassment, and outing. Security officials have relied on illegitimately obtained digital photos, chats, and similar information in prosecutions, in violation of the right to privacy and other human rights.

Policing Of LGBTQI People

Senior LGBT rights researcher at HRW Rasha Younes stated that authorities in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Tunisia had “integrated technology into their policing of LGBT people”.

“While digital platforms have enabled LGBT people to express themselves and amplify their voices, they have also become tools for state-sponsored repression”, Younes said. 

Patrick Lenihan, Grindr’s head of global communications, spoke to NBC News, explaining that the company decided to issue the warning to Grindr users following reports by several LGBTQ advocacy groups in Egypt that approximately 35 to 40 LGBTQ individuals had been arrested in the country over the weekend. 

Digital Platforms Fail To Keep LGBTQI People Safe

“Grindr is working with groups on the ground in Egypt to make sure our users have up-to-date information on how to stay safe, and we are pushing international organisations and governments to demand justice and safety for the Egyptian LGBTQ community,” Lenihan said in an email. 

Lenihan kept the names of the advocacy groups anonymous to protect the identity and safety of the members involved. 

Digital platforms failing to protect the safety of LGBTQI+ people 

“Online abuses against LGBT people have offline consequences that reverberate throughout their lives and can be detrimental to their livelihood, mental health, and safety,” Younes said. 

“Authorities across the MENA region should stop targeting LGBT people, online and offline, and social media companies should mitigate the adverse impacts of digital targeting by better protecting LGBT people online”, she added. 


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