The popular gay dating app Grindr has been removed from several app stores in China after its cyberspace authority vowed to ensure a “healthy, festive and auspicious online environment” during the Lunar New Year.
The matchmaking platform was removed from Apple’s App Store last Thursday, according to mobile research firm Qimai, but it is unclear when it disappeared from China’s other major app stores, including Android platforms.
Grindr’s removal came just two days after the Cyberspace Administration of China vowed on Jan. 25 to renew a month-long round of campaigns to police what it considers illegal and inappropriate content — such as online rumors, pornography and superstitions — and punish accounts that violate the law and disseminate problematic content.
The clean-up campaign was announced by the regulator just ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday season, which also coincides with the start of the Beijing Winter Olympics later this week.
Grindr and Apple China did not respond to a request for comment. Google’s Play Store is not available in China.
Blued and Aloha, two local competitors of the U.S.-owned dating app, are still accessible for download in China’s market.
Over the past few weeks, Grindr users in China have reported failures in sending and receiving messages and loading pictures. Some of them have said they could use the app only by using a virtual private network, or VPN, a regular practice by some Chinese internet users to bypass the country’s censorship system, known as the Great Firewall.
Homosexuality was decriminalized in China in 1997, and it has not been classified as a mental disorder in the country since 2001, but same-sex marriage is still prohibited and homsexuality remains a taboo subject.
Last year, dozens of Chinese universities’ LGBTQ-supportive accounts were deleted by social media site WeChat, with access to accounts blocked and all of the content deleted. The platform said some of those accounts had broken internet rules.
Grindr was founded in 2009 by Israeli-American tech entrepreneur Joel Simkhai and sold to Chinese company Beijing Kunlun Tech Co. seven years later. In 2020, after facing pressure from the U.S. government over national security concerns, the company was sold by its Chinese owner to California-based investor group San Vicente Acquisition LLC.