We have been closely following the global conversation about discrimination, including that some of our competitors will remove the ethnicity filters. Even though we have received only a few user requests, we thought it's a good time to look at ourselves. In our experience it's always best to check the data in heated discussions, and to try to rationalize important decisions.
Usage of ethnicity feature
- Over 2 million Gay, Bi or Trans people use ROMEO regularly. Over half (1.2 million) voluntarily show their own ethnicity on profiles
- About one-third of our members have access to search filters, either on the website or via a paid subscription in the app. Only 5% (34,480) of these are using the ethnicity filters
- While just 5% (1,577) tick all ethnicities except one. 65% (22,723) use the feature to target their desired ethnicities, mostly not their own
We fully understand how this feature can look bad from a distance. But, we are happy that the overwhelming majority use it to search for people from backgrounds other than their own. Interestingly, the usage across different countries and ethnicities is more or less the same.
At ROMEO we believe, that positive experience is the best way to eliminate prejudgements and discrimination in the long run. We will keep the feature, and rename it to “Search”. We hope calling it by its intended function helps avoid misunderstandings.
Let's check the profile texts
Since we are on the topic we examined another issue, discrimination in profile texts. We did another search within 2 million members for common offensive terms regarding ethnicity and body shaming across languages. We found 1,485 users with these terms in their profile, and our support team randomly reviewed 200.
- 70 were questionable e.g. “No XYZ” regarding ethnicity
- 89 were body shaming
- 23 were false positive e.g. “Don’t message me if you say ‘no XYZ’ on your profile”
- 5 were in breach of our rules
- 8 edge cases/undefinable
We are aware there are more profiles; especially if people are using codes or slang that we may be unaware of. Still, we are happy about the low numbers. Big thanks to the guys in Support and our Users who help us fight discrimination on our platform.
Where to draw the line?
Let’s face it discrimination is a hugely complex issue. Any sexual preference can be seen as discrimination - ethnicity, age, body, femininity, and many more. But to deny sexual preferences is an illusion. We believe that the absolute majority of our members do not intend to use our platform to discriminate.
Our decision is we will continue to allow terms such as “Not/Only XYZ” in the context of sex—and only in this. Do we like it? No. But oppression will push people back to using offensive code. Even if we could remove them all, these comments would shift to private chats. We believe that receiving a message which is hurtful, discriminatory, and directed at you personally would be, by far, more painful.
So yes, stating your sexual preferences is fine, but we do not tolerate hate speech or humiliating terms. This is where we need you, our users, to step up and be active. If you come across such a profile, please report it right away!
Freedom AND Diversity
We have been online since 2001 and we know that shiny things are not built for the long run. “Zero tolerance” might sound great, but it means in reality living in a total dictatorship. At ROMEO, we live and work in Amsterdam & Berlin. Both are known as very liberal cities but still, they are not perfect. They will never be! Freedom hurts sometimes, but it's worth stretching it. Taking a human approach and accepting 0.X% is the better route by far.
We’re happy to announce two small improvements coming soon to help tackle these problems:
Report for Discrimination/Hate Speech - We will be adding a new direct report option to help our users tackle discrimination and hate speech on our platform. This will raise awareness quickly and escalate reports to the support team.
‘No Thanks’ Message - We are adding one free pre-saved phrase for all. Users will be able to share a polite ‘Sorry, not interested’ message with one click.
When you see discrimination and hate speech - on or offline - do your best to stop it. As members of the LGBT+ community, we need to act together and to protect ourselves and each other.
Let’s be nice to each other. Because love beats hate. Every single time.
Your ROMEO Team