Dating app Grindr disappears from Apple's App Store in China (updated)

The absence comes after China vowed to crack down on various kinds of online content.


Grindr is still facing trouble in China. Bloomberg reports the gay dating app has disappeared from Apple's App Store in the country, with researchers at Qimai estimating the software was removed on January 27th. There was no immediate explanation for the departure, but it came just days after China's Cyberspace Administration launched a campaign to purge illegal online material, porn and rumors ahead of the Winter Olympics.

We've asked Apple and Grindr for comment. The app's departure came after weeks of glitches with Grindr's service, such as problems adding likes or sending messages.

Homosexuality is not a crime in China. Nonetheless, the country has occasionally censored gay and other LGBT content. Bloomberg notes the National Radio and Television Administration has recently used homophobic terms to blast androgynous-looking men, and has called for boycotts of gay male love stories. If regulators ordered Grindr's removal, it may have been part of this larger campaign to impose social conformity.

With that said, Grindr already had a fraught relationship with the Chinese government. The company was Chinese-owned before it was forced to sell due to US sanctions, and China-based rivals like Blued remain on the App Store despite Grindr's disappearance. If those apps persist, their presence would suggest China singled out Grindr instead of targeting all gay dating apps.

Whatever the reasons, the removal highlights a constant problem for Apple and other foreign app store owners who want to operate in China. While they may tout the importances of freedom and privacy in their home countries, China's rules frequently force them to pull apps or exclude features if they want to continue participating in one of the world's largest mobile device markets. Simply put, companies like Apple have to accept compromises if they want to retain a significant Chinese presence.

Update 1/31 2:30PM ET: Grindr's developer removed the app, according to Apple. 

Update 1/31 4:54PM ET: Engadget understands Grindr removed the app due to the potential for problems stemming from China's Personal Information Protection Law, which governs private data. Notably, the law requires that any cross-border data transfers go through the Cyberspace Administration. That could be a problem when those international transfers are virtually necessary for Grindr's business.