Are the algorithms that power dating apps racially biased?

By Aaron Mok – May 13, It is common nowadays for 21st century millennials to search for partners, whether it be romantic or sexual, through dating apps. Apps such as Tinder, Grindr, Her and so forth have made pursuing partners much more convenient and accessible than it used to be. Rather than attending that local bar in your neighborhood every Thursday night in search of a partner, partners can be accessed anytime and anywhere you want — an entire dating pool available to you through your handheld device. And with that convenience comes the privilege of choice. But with such privilege comes a dilemma. What is most often overlooked, and arguably the most consequential feature of dating apps, is the freedom to filter people based on specific characteristics. More specifically, the freedom to filter potential partners based on race. And as we mindlessly swipe left and right on countless profiles, we often are not conscious of how our own racial biases can be reflected and mediated through our swiping choices.

Dear Damona: Is it racist if I don’t want to date outside my own race?

When I was in fifth grade, my mother transferred me from a predominantly black school to a predominantly white school. I was afraid at first because none of my new peers looked like me. Thoughts of wanting to change my appearance, such as straightening my hair, began swirling through my head. I felt comfortable.

One Asian-Canadian woman examines the racism and stereotypes she has faced on dating apps—and confronts her own racial biases.

Ashley Brown. In , user data on OkCupid showed that most men on the site rated black women as less attractive than women of other races and ethnicities. That resonated with Ari Curtis, 28, and inspired her blog, Least Desirable. Kholood Eid for NPR hide caption. These were the types of messages Jason, a year-old Los Angeles resident, remembers receiving on different dating apps and websites when he logged on in his search for love seven years ago.

He has since deleted the messages and apps.

‘Why is it OK to ban certain races on your dating profile?’

Mobile dating apps that allow users to filter their searches by race — or rely on algorithms that pair up people of the same race — reinforce racial divisions and biases, according to a new paper by Cornell researchers. Although partner preferences are extremely personal, the authors argue that culture shapes our preferences, and dating apps influence our decisions. Fifteen percent of Americans report using dating sites, and some research estimates that a third of marriages — and 60 percent of same-sex relationships — started online.

We employ a Speed Dating experiment that allows us to directly observe individual decisions and thus infer whose preferences lead to racial segregation in.

S inakhone Keodara reached his breaking point last July. Loading up Grindr, the gay dating app that presents users with potential mates in close geographical proximity to them, the founder of a Los Angeles-based Asian television streaming service came across the profile of an elderly white man. He is now considering suing Grindr for racial discrimination. For black and ethnic minority singletons, dipping a toe into the water of dating apps can involve subjecting yourself to racist abuse and crass intolerance.

Seeing that all the time is grating; it affects your self-esteem. Style blogger Stephanie Yeboah faces the same struggles. Racism is rife in society — and increasingly dating apps such as Tinder, Grindr and Bumble are key parts of our society. Where we once met people in dingy dancehalls and sticky-floored nightclubs, now millions of us look for partners on our phones.

Four in 10 adults in the UK say they have used dating apps. Globally, Tinder and Grindr — the two highest-profile apps — have tens of millions of users.

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Yet on many occasions, trapped between these beguiling quirks are often terms of constraint and restriction as racial preferences come into play. When it comes to making friends, race is rarely an issue so why the double standard when it comes to relationships? Perhaps the familiarity is much more appealing than the precarious exploration of new cultures, especially so when it comes to romantic relationships.

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A few weeks ago a girlfriend of mine, who happens to be a black woman, sent me a screenshot of an exchange she had with a man she came across on an online dating app. I’m accustomed to friends sharing their ‘WTF’ moments, and generally I love living vicariously through their dating experiences. My friend was in the early stages of a chat with a man she’d matched with and he straight away asked about her ethnicity — projecting his assumptions of her by focusing on her race.

I made a documentary about the role race plays in online dating, Date My Race , a year ago. So I empathised with the frustration my friend felt by having to explain her blackness to this complete stranger. Dating is a challenge for most people, but it’s even more challenging when you’re from a racial minority background. If you’re not being judged for what you look like, you’re being asked to explain your ‘difference’. For example, the data collected by one of the many online dating websites in Australia, Oasis.

Why is it OK for online daters to block whole ethnic groups?

Note that ethnicity is about culture, and race is about physical traits. Zuleyka: It is very much shaped by culture. We know that because there are patterns. You talked about the patterns on dating apps. There are patterns in which people couple more generally, in marriage — those types of patterns.

What explains the relative persistence of same-race romantic relationships? One possible explanation is structural–this phenomenon could reflect the fact that.

The dating app Tinder is shown on an Apple iPhone in this photo illustration taken February 10, Vikram R. His research is on the ethics and policy of business and technology. His research is on marketing law and ethics. In the last two weeks, most dating apps have proclaimed that they stand in solidarity with black people in the United States.

It is difficult to take their claims of solidarity seriously when dating apps such as OkCupid, Hinge, CoffeeMeetsBagel, The League, eHarmony, and Match provide users with filters to exclude black people from romantic or sexual consideration.

OPINION: Are online dating companies swiping left on Black Lives Matter?

This practice has been met with many objections along the way. Of course, you have freedom in your dating choices, yet there are systemic causes and effects to your decision that are worth examining. We are attracted to the image of beauty that is currently being marketed to us and, unfortunately for people of color and Rubenesque women, historically most models in fashion magazines have been white and waifish.

The findings suggest that heterosexual females and gay males prefer to date Whites over nonwhites. Moreover, respondents from both sexual orientations were.

Which begs the somewhat uncomfortable question: does having a racial preference when dating make me racist? Looking at the data, we can see that white men do really well with women of all races. They are most likely to be considered attractive and to receive replies to messages, whereas black and Asian men fare far worse.

On the opposite side, white and Asian women fare best, with black women struggling. This data holds true for same sex couples as well as heterosexual ones. In , Essence magazine conducted a survey that found the majority of black women fell into one of four categories: the angry black woman, the baby mama, the uneducated sister, and the unhealthy and fat woman.

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