Since November 2021, Bumble has been raising awareness about the prevalence of cyberflashing in the U.K., a pervasive problem experienced disproportionately by women via social media and messaging apps. Research from data analytics firm YouGov shows that four in 10 millennial women (41%) respondents have been sent an unsolicited photo of a man’s genitals (dick pics, colloquially) without consent. But research from Bumble suggests this could be even higher, with nearly half of respondents aged 18-24 (48%) receiving a sexual photo they did not ask for in the last year alone*.
Bumble has been campaigning to criminalise this abhorrent behaviour in the U.K., working with a coalition of experts including Professor Clare McGlynn and organisations including UN Women U.K., the United Nations’ gender equality arm, Refuge, and Women’s Aid, amongst others. In March 2022, the U.K. government announced that it would make cyberflashing a criminal offence under the proposed Online Safety Bill.
On August 29, Bumble founder and CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd joined forces with our coalition of experts in an open letter published in The Daily Telegraph. In the letter, they called on the candidates for U.K. Prime Minister to prioritise anti-cyberflashing efforts during their first 100 days in office and ensure that any legislation is focussed on consent. The letter is published below in full. For more on our work to combat cyberflashing in the U.K., see here. And to learn about our anti-cyberflashing work in the U.S., read here.
We write to you as a coalition that cares deeply about the online and offline safety of women.
Our new Prime Minister will face huge challenges, not least the cost-of-living crisis. They may be tempted to set aside seemingly less pressing issues, including issues related to women’s safety. We believe this would be a mistake.
Over the past year, the undersigned have advocated for the criminalisation of cyberflashing – the sending of genital images without consent. These explicit images are regularly sent on social media and messaging apps and women are disproportionately the victims. Research from dating app Bumble found that nearly half (48%) of young women have received a sexual photo they did not ask for*.
Cyberflashing is a shockingly common form of gender-based abuse which has resulted in many women feeling unsafe online. Notably, the government recognised the importance of addressing this harm and committed to introducing a cyberflashing offence in the Online Safety Bill.
We now call on your government to make good on this promise by pressing ahead with a comprehensive, consent based approach to criminalise cyberflashing during your first hundred days in office. We stand ready to support you if you do so.
Whitney Wolfe Herd, CEO and Founder, Bumble
Claire Barnett, Executive Director, UN Women
Ruth Davison, CEO, Refuge
Farah Nazeer, CEO, Women’s Aid
Professor Clare McGlynn – Professor of Law at Durham University
*The research was commissioned by Bumble and carried out online by Research Without Barriers. Surveys were conducted between 15th-18th October 2021 with 1,793 respondents who live in England or Wales. All research conducted adheres to the UK Market Research Society (MRS) code of conduct (2019) and ICC/ESOMAR (international). RWB is registered with the Information Commissioner’s Office and complies with the DPA (1998).