The popular gay dating app Grindr has been voluntarily removed from China’s app stores after cyber authorities announced plans to impose a broad government clampdown ahead of the Winter Olympics in Beijing.
Grindr’s decision to leave China was precipitated by the emergence of a policy led by China’s Cyberspace Administration, which posted an outline of the plan on January 25. While the notice did not directly mention the LGBTQ community, it made references to plans to “dispose” of “a number of websites and platforms that engage in pornography and gambling transactions.”
“In order to create a civilized, healthy, festive and peaceful atmosphere for online public opinion during the Spring Festival, the Central Cyberspace Administration of China has decided to launch a one-month special campaign of ‘Clean and Bright 2022 Spring Festival Network Environment Improvement’ from now on,” the notice stated, according to a translated version of it.
The policy coincides with both the Chinese New Year as well as the Winter Olympics, which will take place throughout the month of February.
The development comes less than a year after the Chinese social media app WeChat drew headlines after dozens of accounts led by LGBTQ folks and groups were deleted across multiple cities. Before that crackdown, college officials directed students to avoid mentioning their schools on social media and close down LGBTQ groups, according to the Associated Press.
Like many restrictions impacting the LGBTQ community around the world, the government is invoking children as part of the justification for the policy. The policy mentions a need to “rectify problems such as ‘internet celebrity children’ and ‘soft pornography’ to protect the legitimate rights and interests of minors.”
Among other goals, Chinese officials are trying to redirect attention away from celebrity gossip, eliminate the spread of rumors, and root out “problems such as showing off wealth and worshipping money,” according to the policy.
Grindr was previously owned by Beijing Kunlun Tech, a Chinese company, but was sold in 2020 amid pressure from the United States over concerns that the Chinese could blackmail Americans with data collected through Grindr.