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Grindr disappears from Chinese app stores amid Winter Olympics internet crackdown

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Olympic athlete accommodation zones have a reputation for being hotbeds of hook-ups, fuelled by both dating apps and the continuous presence of perfectly-toned bodies.

It’s just become harder for gay athletes at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing to hook up, though, as Grindr has just disappeared from multiple app stores in China. The move came as the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) ramped its efforts to police the internet ahead of the winter games.

Perhaps more significantly than incoming athletes finding it tougher to find online matches, it has become harder for the country’s 1.4 billion population to access the gay dating app. Chinese-owned gay dating apps such as Blued are still available, but Grindr has seemingly joined a huge list of sites and apps, including Facebook, Tinder and Instagram as not being ‘officially’ accessible in the country.

Grindr was removed from Apple’s App Store in China on 27 January 2022, reports AFP. Neither Apple nor Grindr responded to the agency’s request for comment.

screenshot 2022 01 31 at 11.31.58
Grindr promotional screenshots

In 2020, the Chinese company Beijing Kunlun Tech sold Grindr to US firm San Vicente Acquisition Partners for around $600 million, after owning Grindr for four years. The sale came after US authorities deemed Beijing Kunlun Tech’s ownership of the app as a national security threat.

Following years of authoritarian internet censorship, ahead of the winter games beginning on February 4 the CCP’s cyber authorities launched yet another campaign to purge content it deems illegal or sensitive from the China-accessed internet.

With social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter blocked in China, LGBTQ content is heavily-policed on censored Chinese social media sites such as Weibo and WeChat. Laws prevent certain expressions of LGBTQ love on Chinese television and video games, and what authorities call “sissy idols” are banned.

Homosexuality was illegal in China until 1997, and was ‘officially’ considered a mental disorder by authorities before 2001. While cities such as Shanghai, Beijing and Chengdu have gay bars and clubs, homosexuality is still considered taboo in much of Chinese society. Chinese apps that help LGBTQ people meet partners for sham heterosexual marriages have proved popular.

According to the South China Morning Post, over 34 publicly ‘out’ LGBTQ athletes are set to compete in the 2022 Winter Olympics.

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