Shortly after Trump supporters stormed Capitol Hill on 6 January, 2021, multiple women decided to take the matter of finding those responsible for this attack on US democracy and holding them accountable in their own hands. Using the notorious dating app Bumble, they ‘lured’ in unsuspecting rioters before turning them over to the FBI.
This particular showcase of resourcefulness seems perfectly tailored to Bumble’s tagline ‘where women make the first move’. But where did this idea come from and how exactly did those women manage to trick rioters into confessing?
It all started when one Bumble user posted on Twitter that she knew someone who’d changed her political preference on Bumble to ‘conservative’ in order to obtain pictures and videos of rioters inside the Capitol.
The move even earned props from John Sipher, veteran of the Central Intelligence Agency’s National Clandestine Service.
The tweets quickly went viral on Twitter, which led more women to change their political preferences in order to catch the Trump supporters who took part in the Capitol riots. In response, Bumble initially issued a statement on 12 January, saying it had “taken action on accounts that have violated policy.” It also said it was “monitoring activity and will remove any users that have been confirmed as participants in the attack of the U.S. Capitol.”
This statement highlighted that the dating app wasn’t wholly supportive of the women’s efforts to aid law enforcement. On 14 January, Bumble issued another statement, saying that it had “temporarily removed” its “politics filter to prevent misuse.”
This led many women to criticise the move.
Law&Crime assumed that the dating app’s reluctance to take part in the fallout from the Capitol riots was connected to its recent filing to go public. “Bumble, Inc., which also owns European dating site Badoo, boasted 2.4 million paying users as of September 2020 and reported $417 million in revenue in the first nine months of 2020. The company was founded in 2014 by Whitney Wolfe Herd and Russian billionaire Andrey Andreev. Wolfe Herd previously settled a sexual harassment case with Tinder, her former employer.”
When questioned about its motivation for removing the politics filter, Bumble told SFGATE that “Where our AI technology flags photos, hate symbols or text content that promotes the insurrection or related activities, those are removed, with repeated offences or more extreme content resulting in a user being banned.”
Understandably, there was wide public condemnation for Bumble’s decision to remove the filter.
Shortly after, on 16 January, the filter was back up.
The company turned the politics filter back on in the US and said in a statement issued to Business Insider that it will be monitoring activity through the inauguration, which the FBI has said may be the target of further armed protests.
“Our team has an increased focus on the DC area and across the United States and are closely monitoring all activity now and through inauguration. Where our AI technology flags photos, hate symbols or text content that promotes the insurrection or related activities, those are removed, with repeated offenses or more extreme content resulting in a user being banned,” the statement read.
Since the attack on the Capitol, the FBI has been asking the public for “tips and digital media depicting rioting and violence” in and around the complex. As of Wednesday, 13 January, just over 100 people had been arrested.
As the FBI continues to investigate the insurrection on 6 January, it will surely be following more leads coming from the dating app.