What tools can we give our users to help curb using the platform for dating?

Since the community so far is overwhelmingly in favor of making it clear that Couchers.org is not a dating platform, let’s move on to the next level of the discussion. (Thanks @Jesse!)

For the purpose of clarity, I propose we define dating as “seeking romantic partners.” Thus, Couchers.org is not a platform for seeking romantic partners.

Our ideal outcome is that people sign up to our platform with the intention of making friends. What they do after they become friends is not our concern. We can all agree that Couchers.org is not against people forming romantic partnerships with people they meet through the platform, if that is what naturally happens.

Sub-behaviors of “dating” that we may want to deter could be -

  • Choosing who to meet/host/stay with based on physical appearance/attraction
  • Sending unsolicited messages with romantic/flirty intent (i.e. “hello beautiful” “You’re very cute let’s be friends” “you have a nice smile”)
  • Attending in-person events/hangouts and flirting with other attendees
  • Feel free to add more…

Issues of physical safety (such as sexual assault, coercion, rape, non-consensual encounters) are an entirely different discussion, so let’s keep them out of this thread.

All that aside, the main question is: what tools can we give our users to help prevent people from using the platform for dating?

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I propose allowing users less photos. Seriously, one is probably enough. I suspect that people who are looking for something more than friends would be more likely to upload several angles/outfits (or lack thereof) etc.

We’ve talked in the past about the potential for a “diversity” score or something to see if the person who’s requesting you/hosting you/meeting you has a wide range of people they generally connect with. But I can’t think of any way to do it that would be fair. You can’t choose who you host or stay with sometimes, you just get what you get.

Why don’t we force users to send more than a few words of text if it’s their first message to someone. Maybe a character limit that’s higher than your average dating spam message. Also, provide a flag button that users can use to say “this is dating spam” that actually sends a warning to the person who sent it. Three strikes and perhaps they can be suspended and get a talking to or whatever. =P

This is probably the hardest one, but I think if you are given the option to write references for people who were at your meeting with an anonymous “did this person make you feel uncomfortable at any point?” that could help lower their community standing.

Just my two cents!

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Regarding photos:

I generally agree with this, but I’m not sure 1 photo is the right number. I think a passport-style headshot photo (but with a smile!) should be the main profile photo. Of course this won’t solve the problem entirely, but it should help. But I spoke to @anon29844220 about this at length and he pointed out that photos do help you get an idea of someone’s personality, which is an important part of “vetting” a person before surfing or hosting.

So in addition to a single headshot as the main profile pic, you could have 1 or 2 more photos that are only visible after viewing the person’s account and clicking to view additional photos (maybe the link to the album could be at the bottom of the profile, forcing people to read it?). Limiting photos will also help cut down on operational costs. Hosting lots of images on a platform with lots of users can be expensive! But if we ever implement a “premium” level to help pay for operational costs, maybe one of the benefits could be additional photo albums which they could use to share travel photos, Couchers event photos, etc. on their profiles and in events.

Regarding user-interactions (messaging, requests, etc):

YES! For the first message, and only if I have not already added the person as a friend or linked my profile to theirs (and they approved the link). Absolutely. I’m hard pressed to think of a situation where my very first message to someone I don’t know would be shorter than 3 or 4 sentences.

I love the idea of giving people the idea to flag requests or messages of any kind within the platform. We could have a menu when they click the button to flag the message and let them choose from:

  • Harassment
  • Inappropriate
  • Unsafe
  • Spam
  • Other

Upon flagging, I’m still thinking about who would handle the flags and whether or not the offender should be notified or not. 3 strikes and you’re out would be simple, but I can think of situations where the person should be out on their first strike, and situations where someone might get more than 3 strikes, of which several may have been unjustified (eg: brigading, abuse of the report button, etc)

We could enable the ability within the events module to allow people to anonymously flag people who signed up for the event, similar to the flagging I mentioned above.

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This puts on the onus on the person receiving the attention. No one should have to worry about what kind of picture they have in order to avoid being flirted with or picked out as potential romantic partner. It’s akin to victim blaming. “Well, if your picture was less sexy, maybe you wouldn’t get hit on” is wrong on a lot of levels.

My suggestion was actually aimed at offenders who post multiple pictures of themselves to show off. I could link you to some examples of profiles where it’s like “here I am shirtless” and “here I am posing on my bed” and it’s like, ok. Just one picture would have been more than enough, thanks.

With only one photo, Couchers can never show community.

That seems kinda shallow. Anyway, what stops you from linking to some other social media profile with tons of photos, if you so choose?

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I understand you better now. Still I don’t see how posting pictures of you/your community doing those things as part of your profile is the only way to build community. If people can read about what you do, check your references, and see what events you’ve organised or participated in, you can also build community. Personally, I’m not interested in being part of a community where pictures are that important.

We discussed being able to upload photos of your events elsewhere (like on an event page) - it doesn’t need to be on your profile. Having the ability to upload lots of profile photos fleshes out who you are as a person, sure, but I was just making the case that it also provides a space for bloat/abuse that we don’t necessarily need in order to have a functional and practical platform. And it may as well encourage people to use the platform for dating. But I could be wrong!

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I have mixed feelings about forcing or suggesting users to use a certain kind of picture to present themselves. I think most of all it would sound very weird to suggest someone not to “show off too much” because they could look like creeps or look too attractive and that would attract creeps. Also limiting the numbers of pictures to 3, most people will choose the pictures in which they will look better cause we’re humans :blush: and those who don’t want to be harassed will still choose the less attractive one they have (like skiing pictures where you can barely see the person behind all the clothing).

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I love using a lot of pictures but i dont mind if you just allow one. Than i will simply post my insta :wink: This doesnt need to be a secund version of it…

Still what is flirty?
So someone writes me nice smile, i say thank you.
someone write me nice ass/boobs, i will report him/her/them.
I reported obvious sex spam in cs too- like we will have sex in front of you as thank you for being hosted. No thanks- report!

And telling womxn what to wear is devinitly victim blaming and unwanted! Stop it! I am against body shaming, clothes shaming- hijab policing, victim blaming, tone policing or sexual assults in any way.
I can have profile pick in pink bikini, still be feminist and not want false attention.

I think no matter how often you say not for dating this people will end up here bc its free. i just think they will have low community stand.

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So what tools would you like to see available, @womxn?

It sound like easy ways for reporting… but then I think you said elsewhere you are very concerned of flagging being easily abused?

Yes in the forum!
But violance and also sexual violance can never be tolerated! I will report it when a user writes me personally like that bc he wants to be my surfer or host in real life were he can be real danger to me.
Just in the forum i myself prefer answering and education over reporting.

But a lot of flagging would be about messages, like nice boobs… Why would you like to flag a sexist message, but educate someone over a sexist post on the forum? Because of the public aspect? I’m trying to better understand your impression!

i used cs for some years and i reported i guess not more than a handfull of sexspammers. and one user that didnt understand that its not tinder, i blocked him too. So someone just flirty, i dont report him. and the others were mostly new members and removed quieckly when i checked. so its just not a big deal to me.

When i used cs groups i was reported bc of my language used within posts (same style like here) several times, and i got suspended bc of that. i just dont want to get reported again for being active here and sharing my thoughts. this reporting can lead to power cliques reporting each other and silincing each other instead of communicating with different cultures and ideas.

I always thought it would be good measure of ignorance how often a user blocks others or reports others (falsely).

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I think it’s more contextual and perhaps about the content. If someone in the forum messaged me nice boobs I’d definitely report. If they were misguided about some things and show an openness and willingness to discuss and change, I might flag and educate depending on the situation.

Anyway, I think these will constitute a comprehensive set of tools:

  1. Having “Don’t be a creep - Couchers is NOT a dating platform and we do not tolerate harassment” on the first onboarding screen so ALL users see it

  2. Constant linking and reference to rules of platform

  3. Like others above have mentioned, setting a character limit of 30-50 for all new message initiations/requests

  4. Detecting certain words in first message and relegating it to a spam folder (which users can look through if they want)

  5. Allow a maximum of 3 photos

  6. Have a flag user option when they send an undesirable message (like in Emily’s example), where when a user gets more than 3 flags, they get automatically suspended (pending moderator review of messages)

  7. Making a BLOCK function easy and prominent to access

Let me know if you guys think I missed anything out.

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I think silenced would be a better approach here. I could also see moderator review not happening by default, but just if they inform moderators. We could have a message explaining the silenced status and say something along the lines of If you think you are wrongly silenced, send a message to moderators. If you approached other users disrespectfully, that’s even a great chance to write a civil message!

So what exactly does “silenced” constitute? If a creep doesn’t see a problem sending stuff like “I wanna f you so bad” to three consecutive people, I highly doubt they’d bring a great attitude to any other areas of the platform outside of messaging. I’d even say they’re a menace to have on the platform.

But what are the areas that don’t involve messaging? They can go to events I guess. Could be educational to be at an event and have to say you can’t respond to messages…?

I can think of a simple example: If such a creep was given a chance to host someone through an event or something along those lines, it could put vulnerable people in very bad situations.

Could you clarify what you mean by “could be educational to have at an event”?

But anyone can go to an event and if a user is ready to be hosted outside of the tools the platform provides, that’s already a different story.

I meant it could be educational for them to attend an event and have to….
If they get silenced, but still keep their profile, they would either need to pretend not to have one or live up to the fact that it’s silenced. Though in reality folks that will send messages like the one you suggested will not take the hussle to get verified anyways, no? So there’s already different checks in place.

In that regard, the verfication and onboarding approach is already another tool here!

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overcome your bias. someone writes sexist things about trans womxn in forum and than meet them fully integrated at event and has nice chat maybe?

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Hmm yes, I acknowledge this could happen.

However, I’m still worried about the example I mentioned, which I think is a very real possibility even with other checks such as verification in place.

As a middle ground, maybe:

  1. first time offenders get silenced

  2. second time offenders get suspended/deactivated

  3. third time offenders get permanently banned?

What do y’all think?

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Regarding your list, could it be useful to split this discussion in two different threads - features and education?

I think the two things should go side by side, but it would be easier to focus on each approach separately as there is a lot of work to do and a lot to discuss about single actions (such as silencing and reporting for example).

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