Grindr disappears from Apple’s App Store in China amid anti-LGBTQ+ crackdown
Grindr disappeared from mobile stores in China days before the Beijing Winter Olympics.
The popular queer hookup app was removed from Apple’s App Store on January 27, meaning there’s no longer a way to download it on iOS devices. BNC News reports Grindr has also been removed from Android stores in the country.
Google’s Play Store does not operate in China, so these digital storefronts are run by Chinese companies like Huawei and Tencent.
Grindr operators reportedly took down the app of their own accord. A company spokesperson cited difficulties in complying with China’s Personal Information Protection Regulation, a law that limits what personal information apps can store and requires government approval to transfer data to internationally, according to Bloomberg.
Some Grindr users in China reported connectivity issues in the weeks before the app was taken down, including being unable to add likes or exchange messages. It’s unclear whether removing the app from digital stores means that Grindr will also stop providing services to users who have already downloaded the app.
Other Grindr competitors, such as China-based gay networking apps Blued and Aloha, remain available for download from Apple and Android stores nationwide.
The timing of Grindr’s disappearance from the digital market is significant. Last week, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) announced a month-long campaign to target “evil” activities and cultivate a “healthy” environment for Chinese New Year and the upcoming Beijing Olympics, according to a statement.
Although Grindr’s operators opted to remove the app rather than have it banned, the move comes at a time when the Chinese government is targeting LGBTQ+ visibility. In the past year alone, the Chinese government has cracked down on LGBTQ+ students on social media, banned depictions of female men on television, and refused to approve video games featuring “effeminate men.”
LGBT Rights Advocacy China, a leading non-profit organization in the country, closed its doors in November due to mounting pressure on LGBTQ+ people in the country.
Even though homosexuality has been legal in China since 1997 and trans people are able to change their gender markers after undergoing surgery, there is almost no protection in the country for LGBTQ+ people at any level. . Polls suggest that the vast majority of LGBTQ+ people in China are reluctant to come out.
Grindr is just the latest in a long line of companies that have come into conflict with China’s tech regulation laws. For example, both the New York Times app and HKmap.live, a crowdsourced map of Hong Kong, have been removed by Apple for violating local laws. The Pocket Cast podcast app, meanwhile, was taken down by Apple after Chinese authorities determined it could be used to access illegal content.
Grindr has been criticized in the past for the way it handles user data. A 2018 BuzzFeed investigation revealed that the app shared its users’ HIV status with two app optimization companies. Grindr stopped the practice a few days after the report was published.
In 2019, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) raised concerns that the company’s handling of data could pose a national security risk and lobbied its business owners. ‘then private Chinese game company Beijing Kunlun Tech, to get them to divest from Grindr. Grindr was sold to US company San Vicente Acquisition in 2020. (CFIUS was criticized at the time for perpetuating Sinophobic and homophobic attitudes in its report.)
More recently, Grindr was fined 65 million Norwegian kroner (C$9.4 million) in December 2021 for violating parts of the European General Data Protection Regulation law and sharing the sexual orientation of users with advertisers without their consent.