Dating App Killer: A Woman Was Stunned to Death by a Man She matched With on Tinder
A woman was stabbed to death in her home by a man she matched with on Tinder. This is just one of several recent dating app murder stories that are making headlines.
The murder of Shraddha Walker and the discovery of her chopped body parts is pushing people to reconsider the risks associated with using dating apps. But what is the responsibility of online platforms to protect their users?
The Killer’s Profile
American actress Natalie Walker recently conducted a social experiment by creating fake Tinder profiles for two notorious serial killers — both people you probably wouldn’t want to date. The first profile was for Charles Manson, the 1960s serial killer who led a murderous cult of about 100 people.
The second profile was for Khalil Wheeler-Weaver, the New Jersey serial killer who murdered Sarah Butler in 2016. Using his real name of “LilYachtRock,” the killer’s profile said he was looking for “twink types” no older than 25 and would pay for sex.
Sadly, it didn’t take long for the killer to match with potential victims on the dating app and lure them into his trap. Before the day was over, he had raped and killed at least four women, including Butler. He also posed as a woman online, claiming to be a lawyer. Luckily, Butler’s sister and friends were able to catch the killer using her own personal information.
When a user of an online dating app receives threatening messages, the app should take action to block the profile and warn other users. If the company doesn’t, it could be held liable for the offender’s actions.
One study found that two-thirds of deceptive messages in dating apps involved butler lies and self-presentation lies. In other words, users often lied about themselves to amplify their attractiveness or make themselves seem unavailable.
While most people who use dating apps have good intentions, some don’t. As these dating app murder stories illustrate, some users communicate with a fabricated profile that hides their true identity and can coax victims into sharing sensitive information or meeting FTF only to discover too late that they are interacting with someone dangerous. The best way to protect yourself when using dating apps is to conduct a reverse image search. By searching a person’s name, email address, phone number or social media username with Social Catfish, you can verify their identity and learn more about them before meeting in person.
The App’s Failure to Protect Users
Despite their expanded social opportunities, dating apps also collect vast amounts of sensitive personal information, including geolocation, swipe history, and detailed medical histories. This data is often used to make personalized recommendations or to automate decisions that can affect people based on their race, religion, health, or sexual orientation.
App developers have a responsibility to protect their users from the risks of using their products. However, there is no single federal law that governs how private businesses may use their customers’ data. Instead, the United States relies on a patchwork of sector-specific laws and individual state privacy standards.
The murder of a woman in Oregon and the arrest of a 36-year-old man who was alleged to have aided the suspect in his attempt to evade capture demonstrate how the growing popularity of dating apps can be used for unsavory purposes. Until there is a comprehensive national privacy standard, it is essential for the public to take proactive measures to stay safe on these platforms.
A man who used dating apps to lure his victims in New Jersey was sentenced Wednesday to 160 years in prison. His victims’ family members sat in the courtroom to watch his sentencing, which came after a trial that highlighted their own social media detective work and helped authorities track down Khalil Wheeler-Weaver.
The murder of Talent Bradley, who was stabbed to death by a sex offender she met on Grindr, is one of the latest reminders that online dating can be dangerous. The anti-sexual assault nonprofit RAINN offers safety tips for anyone who uses dating apps, including looking up your potential date on social media, reporting suspicious behavior and choosing a public place to meet in person for the first time.
While Oregon police are working around the clock to catch Foster, he is still on the loose, and more victims may be hurt in the coming days. The dating app giants have promised to do more to protect their users, but until then, singles should be vigilant and use a variety of tools to help keep themselves safe.