Tinder Now Doing the Lying for You

An April Fools' joke even less funny than many others.

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

Given my scholarship on lies on online dating apps and sexual fraud, I took notice when Tinder announced on March 29 that it was introducing a height verification tool so that individuals could no longer fudge their height. I was not the only one to pay attention: millions of people watched the associated video, and multiple news outlets reported on this development.

The introductory video began with the message "Let's bring honesty back to dating". There is also a lengthy associated Tinder blog entry making statements about its new "Height Verification Badge" such as:

Oh, and by the way? Only 14.5% of the U.S. male population is actually 6′ and beyond. So, we're expecting to see a huge decline in the 80% of males on Tinder who are claiming that they are well over 6 feet. That's fine by us — as long as we're all living our truths.

Tinder's HVB is coming soon to a phone near you.

It now turns out to have been an April Fools' joke on the part of the company, one made only more believable by its release multiple days before April 1 and preceding tweet that they had a "Big announcement dropping". In short (pardon the pun), the company did a lot to push this story as real.

While I consider humor to be an important part of life, there are several reasons that this particular stunt is not funny to me and in fact earns my condemnation. The first is that we live in an era in which the spread of dangerous fake news is no joke, as could be seen recently in its effects on the latest Brazilian presidential election, and actions like Tinder's trivialize that fact. Note that Microsoft–much unlike Tinder–reacted to problems with other companies' April Fools' debacles this year by banning public-facing pranks.

The second reason that the Tinder joke is deeply problematic is that it makes light of people lying on online dating apps and what might be the effects and victims of that. Sure, lies about height are far from topping the list of significant problems in that context. But what about people lying about marital status and having sex with individuals who would have never consented had they known the truth? And even if we stick with smaller lies such as those related to height, why is it ethically acceptable intentionally to mislead others to obtain what one's heart desires (such as a first date with a specific person)?

The company knows or should know that lies on its platform are a serious issue, so choosing that topic as the subject matter of an April Fools' hoax is beyond questionable. In a sense, the company itself has now lied to the public about a plan to work on this problem.

Its statement now, during the reveal, that "what's not funny is lying about who you are on Tinder" is too little, too late—the frequent lies on the app are exactly the topic the company exploited to get millions of views (read: tons of free advertising). Additionally, only a small percentage of the people who viewed the original video will see that statement at all. Even though I have at times defended app makers due to the technical difficulties in implementing solutions that better protect users at the platform level, this year's hoax makes me question the good faith of the Tinder team members that launched the joke.

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  1. First world problem.

    1. When I read the OP, I thought it was the firstest of all first-world problems. People coloring the facts on an semi-anonymous hookup website? Get my smelling salts.

      P.S:

      Q: How many lesbians does it take to screw in a lightbulb.

      A: First of all, that’s not funny!

      1. Q: How many male homosexuals does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

        A: 1. But it takes a team of ER doctors to get it out.

        1. Q: How many mice does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

          A: 2, but don’t ask me how they got in the lightbulb.

          1. If this fraudulent hoax leads to any reputational damage, or even if it is simply offensive enough, Tinder executives should be arrested and jailed under any legal pretext we can find. There is ample legal president in New York. See the documentation of our nation’s leading criminal “parody” case at:

            https://raphaelgolbtrial.wordpress.com/

        2. Does the lightbulb work once it is screwed in and the recipient is turned on?

    2. Newsflash! Men lie about their endowments, film at 11.

      1. Old Joke:

        Q. Why are women so bad a math?

        A. Because they’ve been told {—-} this is 9 inches.

  2. Jesus f*cking Christ, grow up.

  3. You are a serious law prof/scholar and “fake news” is a real issue, but c’mon now. This post is a bit light on substance and lacking in legal issues/discussion.

  4. Satire: Poking fun at Man’s institutions for the purpose of improving them.

    for the purpose of improving them

  5. God, your posts are dull.

  6. I think weight verification would be more helpful.

    1. Full-body photos should be sufficient for that. It’s mostly appearance people are concerned about. Actual weight verification shouldn’t be necessary for anyone but NASA.

      1. Also, there is a very big difference between being 200 lb of mostly fat and 200 lb of mostly muscle. I know some women who are technically morbidly obese, but can bench press more than me and bike for 20 miles at a time. Pictures should serve for determining body type.

        1. Pictures from how many years ago?

      2. If there are full body photos, we could also tell which women on there are lying about their weight.

        1. You usually don’t need full body photos. I could tell that she wasn’t “athletic and toned” after counting the fifth chin.

  7. MS didn’t say no to pranks out of any moral concern but in order to prevent bad PR.

    An ages-old tradition exists in which people use self-effacing humor in order to put light on stuff they know is wrong and want to fix. This joke told possibly ignorant people that a lot of people are lying about their height to get laid, another ages-old tradition that doesn’t require Tinder. The people at Tinder clearly think it’s stupid.

    Your also complaining about what did happen (joking about lying about height) by likening it to a more extreme version that didn’t happen (lying about being married) and then blaming them for that. A more salient complaint would be that they may joke something in the future about a weight verifier for women.

    1. A more salient complaint would be that they may joke something in the future about a weight verifier for women.

      Would that not also be a valid thing to poke fun at?

      It is in bad taste to point out a woman’s weight, and the societal pressures to reduce weight so you can get more dates. So don’t talk about it?

      1. It would absolutely be valid. It’s also not anywhere near as hysterical as insinuating that Tinder encourages people to lie about being married.

  8. I’m usually the one who thinks people posting comments are too quick to pile on or dismiss substantive points. But I’m with others that this is way too overwrought.

    It’s Tinder. You kinda know what you’re dealing with going into it. And, yeah, people lie when they are trying to get sex/dates/attention. That’s not new to Tinder; that’s always been true and always will be true.

    Hate to break it to you, but he doesn’t make that much money and she’s wearing makeup and a push-up bra. Hardly something worth falling upon the fainting couch over.

    1. But that is how power is gained in the modern culture, by swooning like an antebellum belle at the sound of a sailor’s joke, first in controlled populations like business and schools, and later in the culture as a whole via social media insta-lemmings scaring corporations.

  9. People lie about themselves on social media. To have sex! No way! Omagared!

    1. + infinity!

  10. Irina Manta, Holy Cow, lighten up! What an idiotic reaction, and an even more idiotic, vacuous post.

    You are contributing mightily to the downfall of the Volokh Conspiracy.

    Please go away.

  11. At risk of pointing out the obvious, it’s the job of people in the dating market to vet their dates and not outsource their own good judgement to someone else.

    If you want a man who is actually tall, then you should probably date the men you meet offline, or just accept that you’re going to go on a lot of dates with men who are actually 5’10 despite their claims to being 6’1. But that’s part of dating – weeding through the nonsense.

    1. This is off topic, but inspired by the comments about dating.

      This is a regular exchange between me and my wife:
      “Thank you for saving me from dating.”
      “Thank YOU for saving ME from dating.”

  12. As a 6’2″ Adonis with other proportions to match, I think there’s something about the Reason platform which pulls Volokh into topics like this. Tart up the post with more legal analysis, or make reparation with a post about the tax treatment of municipal bonds.

    1. I know that some Brits get confused, but ‘ doesn’t mean cm and ” doesn’t mean mm. You write it either 6.2 cm or 62 mm.

      1. ” ‘ doesn’t mean cm”

        No, it means feet, and since Eddy has 6 feet, he must be some kind of bug. 🙂

        1. I was just expressing incredulity about his… erm… “size.”

  13. You speak about deceit to advance one’s relationship as though it were a uniquely modern problem arising from Tinder. In reality, we live in the first era in world history when it is fairly easy for an ordinary person to find out whether a stranger is telling the truth about his or her status and past. There has never been a time when lying about one’s marital status to advance one’s own interests was less viable.

    Men routinely have exaggerated their height since at least classical times, as shown by art and sculptures commissioned by wealthy aristocrats falsely depicting them as tall compared to others. Their wives’ portraits, similarly, depicted them as far more beautiful than the reality warranted, much as the average social media profile photo or makeup session aims to do today.

    So the notion that deceit to advance a relationship is some uniquely modern epidemic, and therefore warrants stark seriousness without humor, is meritless and unfounded.

    What is characteristically modern is humorlessness about issues that touch on gender relations. I suspect that humorlessness is a self-defense mechanism that people have adopted after seeing dozens of celebrities taken down over rather trivial #metoo-type issues (e.g., Aziz Ansari and Al Franken). This is similar to how the Salem populace started taking witches very seriously, and sternly disapproving of those who did not, after Abigail Williams succeeded in getting a number of women hanged.

  14. I’m glad they joked about it.

    Contra Prof. Manta, lies about height are ETHICAL, not unethical. They are a small way by which we can smash the current ultra-lookist culture that exists in the US.

    It is highly unethical to judge a person based on height, whether for mating purposes or otherwise. Lying about height is a small way to fight back against that type of unethical behavior, with absolutely no downside other than to the unethical lookist.

    Good for tinder, and I hope they continue to promote ways by which we can fight back against lookist behavior, including by promoting other lies that undermine lookism.

    1. …I think this is serious, but it could just as easily be parody. Lies for so shallow a purpose as finding a date may be chockablock in the online and offline systems, but it is precisely the shallowness of the need that makes them unethical.

      1. It’s parody. Replace “look-” with “rac-” and it becomes pretty clear.

        1. Eeeeeeeee…maybe? Like, I hope you’re right, and the replacement does look not all that crazy (in the “I would expect to see this argument occasionally” sense, not in terms of it being right), but I wouldn’t bet the farm on either possibility.

  15. Please tell me this post was just a terrible attempt at making a joke, about a joke, that failed miserably.

  16. A hearty congratulations to Professor Manta on a well-executed April Fools joke. Her artful and probing satire of the stereotypical intense, humorless, self-absorbed law professor is so realistic it is almost convincing.

    1. If only it were more timely, rather than delivered a day late. As such, it is a dollar short.

      1. Maybe just slow internet when posted?

  17. “Tinder announced on March 29 that…”

    Most importantly, this is just bad form. April fools jokes belong on April 1, not before. Boo Tinder.

  18. Short guys are so insecure.

    1. And they endanger the peace of Europe.

  19. If we’re being honest, shouldn’t this blog have had added this statement: WARNING – THIS BLOG IS DEVOID OF ANY LEGAL INSIGHT OR COMMENTARY.

  20. Wait till she discovers the TRUTH about the spaghetty harvest…

  21. Fake or not, a BMI verification or makeupless pic for the women sounds like a fair trade off for height verification and income verification for the men.

  22. I agree this joke doesn’t really get the April Fool’s vibe right…but c’mon, lighten up Francis. Most April Fool’s Day jokes fall flat IMO as so glaringly obvious as to be just dumb. One more falling flat because it doesn’t get the humor right is hardly worth this trouble.

  23. I used to be a 4’10” italian male, but I now identify as a 7″ asian female, and that’s what my tinder profile says. Its not lie, and feel this blog post should have come with a trigger warning.

  24. I start squirming when I here about how men need to share their height honestly on dating profiles. This must be broken down into two separate points: an evidentiary one and an ethical one. Let us acknowledge for the sake of argument that men will get more matches when they represent their height as being taller on Tinder. If the man gets laid, does the fact that he misrepresented his height in any way render the consent less valid?

    And to that the answer is a resounding no.

  25. I basically believe that everybody needs to joke about a lot more things a lot more often.

  26. Have we started a tradition of April 2nd jokes?

  27. Hmmm. I wonder where that “humorless feminist” stereotype comes from.

    1. Q: How many women does it take to solve a math problem?

      A: One. And then 20 others to talk about how great women are at math.

    2. This line, in particular, is so pitch-perfect that it had me wondering if this really was all a put-on:

      “While I consider humor to be an important part of life, there are several reasons that this particular stunt is not funny to me and in fact earns my condemnation”

      1. It would certainly be nice if this were just a case of Poe’s law.

  28. The first is that we live in an era in which the spread of dangerous fake news is no joke,

    OMG, you’re like, 25, right? Because that’s the only way you could possibly think ‘fake news’ is new or unusually abundant. Its only now that *we call it ‘fake news’* and with the internet around, you can look at the record and see where they’re lying and changing the lies over time.

  29. Does anyone think that this screed is a little bizarre? Like maybe the author has previous height issues when it comes to seeking romantic relationships?

    And of course men lie about their height on dating apps all the time. It is one of the top three ways women weed out potential “likes” on dating sites according to studies.

    Women also “lie” all the time on dating sites. Fat chicks with closely cropped pictures. Women posting pics of them years ago. Lying about age. And I think women are more likely to lie about occupations then men according to studies. Instead of unemployed they put down things like “model” or “business owner”. (Model meaning I take pictures of myself and post them on Instagram and business owner meaning I sell Pampered Chef on the weekends).

    1. “Like maybe the author has previous height issues when it comes to seeking romantic relationships?”

      I think you’re on to something here! I bet she got burnt by some guy on Tinder, exaggerating something dimensional….

      I wonder if she engages in any, like shaving a few years off her age; not that any woman would ever do that.

  30. I’m 6’4″ but I identify as 6’8″. Yeah, maybe I wear those “lifts” devices that make me taller or I’ll even get height reassignment surgery. Who are you to question my identity?

    Biological sex is more objective though. Tinder should verify that representations about one’s sex are actually true. Business people and transactional attorneys will be familiar with KYC (know your customer)? We need KYP.

  31. Tinder only ran with this “joke” because it made fun of low-status men, who are basically the only demographic left that one is allowed to make fun of.

    What do you think the reaction might have been if they jokingly proposed a “single mom on welfare just looking for a free meal” verification?

    1. Tinder only ran with this “joke” because it made fun of low-status straight white cis-men, who are basically the only demographic left that one is allowed to make fun of.

      Fixed it for you.

  32. The four lies of online dating:

    1. Men lying about height
    2. Men lying about income
    3. Women lying about age
    4. Women lying about weight

    Guess which two were fair game for this parody?

  33. Sounds like Tinder’s joke hit a little too close to home for Irina. Probably a story there about a guy, a girl, and missed opportunities.

  34. I think this article is an attempt at an April Fools’ joke

  35. Why are there so many ads on this site trying to get me to date attractive Chinese women? Perhaps good targeting?

    1. That’s weird. I don’t get any of those. I get ads for penis reduction surgery.

      1. I hate to tell you, but those are actually ads for the new documentary Bobbit .

  36. Next topic:

    “When mouthwash won’t get it done: Damages claims for the Three Biggest Lies in the world”

  37. This may have fooled Prof. Manta, but it doesn’t take much knowledge of technology to realize that the original thing was a joke: Your phone or computer has no even remotely plausible way of verifying your height. This was obvious satire that went right over her head. Given that anyone who really thought about it would have realized it was tongue-in-cheek, calling it a “lie” is like getting upset that A Modest Proposal isn’t really advocating for eating infants.

  38. So, wait, let me make sure I’ve got this right. This is a post about Tinder, an application primarily used, and to anyone not born yesterday, intended, to facilitate sexual hookups with no strings attached, and a convoluted analysis about how their April Fool’s marketing joke is not adequately moral? REALLY?

    For an encore, Irina will post about the scandal of beastiality practitioners patronizing puppy mills instead of adopting their victims from the local animal rescue. Next will be shock and horror that Jeffery Dahmer ate people who didn’t maintain a strictly organic diet. She’ll wrap up the series with outrage that the Parkland shooter used imported Chinese ammo and didn’t buy American.

    What’s even more depressing is the link to the author’s scholarship on the topic. What is a libertarian blog doing hosting the writings of someone who wants the government to get involved in policing flirtation? Will she also seek to impose civil or criminal penalties for faking orgasms or falsely claiming that a pair of jeans doesn’t make a woman look fat?

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