World's Largest Gay Dating App Halts Registration After Underage HIV Scare

The world's largest gay social networking app has closed registration to new members after a report claimed that some underage users contracted HIV on dates organized through the platform.

In a statement on Sunday, Beijing-based app Blued — which claims approximately 40 million registered users — said they will suspend new registrations for a week to review the allegations and add improvements to the platform.

"Blued was founded to provide a more transparent, proactive and healthy online home for the minority. We have met with difficulties and challenges and we will continue improving," the company said, before vowing to further assist in HIV/Aids prevention and crack down on underage users.

The announcement came one day after a report by Caixin where theChinese news publication accused the company of failing to safeguard teenager users. Inside the report, a researcher alleged that while the app doesn't allow users under 18, it doesn't have a verification mechanism that enforces the restriction. Without it, undeage boys can set up profiles by pretending to be over 18, which ultimately leaves them vulnerable to sexual exploitation and explicit content.

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File photo: A customer inspects the new Apple iPhone 8 at an Apple Store on September 22, 2017 in San Francisco, California. Beijing-based gay dating app Blued suspended new registrations for a week amid accusations that underage users have caught HIV after meeting someone through the platform. Getty/Justin Sullivan

With reference to academic studies, the report alleged that numerous teenagers contracted HIV after having protected sex with someone they met on the app. Peng Xiaohui, from the China Sexology Association, told the South China Morning Post that he had previously urged Blued's founder to take steps to "prevent minors from using the app."

"Now the report has proved my worries to be true... The public should respect the lawful rights and interests of the gay community. And the app must take responsibility to protect minors and abide by the law," Peng said.

According to Chinese state news agency Xinhua, 820,756 people were living with HIV/Aids in the mainland by June 2017, an increase of 14 percent from the previous year.

Blued was founded by former police officer Ma Baoli. It's estimated to be worth $600 million. Unlike Grindr, a popular Western gay dating app also owned by a Chinese organization, Blued doesn't allow users to publicly state their HIV status.

Blued did not immediately respond to Newsweek's request for comment.

World's Largest Gay Dating App Halts Registration After Underage HIV Scare | World