We’ve one of those little joys of life to observe here, bad law in the making. The Sunday Times has investigated the use of dating apps such as Grindr and Tinder by those underage and found some shocking events. But the law that’s going to come out of this is going to be bad law. For the announcement is that those under 18 will be banned from using such apps.
We have an age of consent to sexual activity in this country, it’s 16. The apps are, obviously enough, aids to sexual activity. That age of consent is the insistence that at age 16 the youth of today know, have the capacity to consent to, what they do with their body parts, who they consent to share bodily fluids with. We agree that if they meet someone at the Scout jamboree, find a Girl Guide similarly inclined, then they are indeed prepared for that healthy exercise.
That there’s a bit of code doing the facilitation doesn’t change that we’ve already agreed they know their own minds:
The failure of tech giants to enforce adult age limits on dating apps is placing a generation of children at risk of grooming and sexual exploitation, a Sunday Times investigation reveals today. Lax controls on apps used by millions, such as Tinder and Grindr, are giving sexual predators and paedophiles easy access to children across Britain, according to police documents revealed under freedom of information laws. Detectives have investigated more than 30 incidents of child rape since 2015 where victims evaded age checks on dating apps only to be sexually exploited. One 13-year-old boy on Grindr was raped or abused by at least 21 men.
13? Jug the lot of ’em and righteously so. But this?
Jeremy Wright, the culture secretary, described our findings as “truly shocking”. He said the government would now consider extending new legislation that will require porn sites, from April, to use age verification technology to stop under-18s using dating apps.
Why? 16 year olds can consent, the law says so. Why have a law which says they can consent in person, by letter, by email, by video, by social media but not by dating app?
But then this is how law is actually made and so much the worse for it.