Profiles also convey what members are looking for – some use this to express an apparent racial “preference”. Journalists and bloggers have reported and campaigned against it – a bubbling cry against a backdrop of shrugs, of people saying that supposed preference is innate, instinctive, and thus beyond society – outside of racism.Anger, concern, and fears about sexual racism infecting both online dating and hookup apps have been brimming for years. So when Silverberg and Skandros beam into Buzz Feed News’ London office via Skype from New York, sitting side-by-side like plucky You Tubers, it isn’t long before the subject arises.And we feel we have taken a step further to make sure there’s no bullying or harassment on Scruff.We don’t tolerate it and any reports of bullying or harassment are investigated by Scruff support staff members within 48 hours.”Silverberg echoes this: “We really try to ensure that Scruff remains a safe space, so people are free to express preferences but not free to use language that in any way takes away from that feeling of Scruff being a safe space.”So Scruff would police profiles that said something explicitly offensive about a particular race, but if someone said, “I prefer Asian guys” that would be OK? “If someone is writing something on their profile with a hostile intention, regardless of the exact language, that will be investigated and may cause the profile to be suspended.It welcomed others in, too: trans and non-binary users, too often left out.Most noticeably, Scruff introduced a range of features both to forge a community of HIV-positive men and to encourage members to glide across the viral divide.
It started poaching users from the daddy of gay hookup apps, while luring others in who had never before been tempted to use their phone to find another man. It seemed edgier, yet friendlier – more inclusive for some.Even without any filtering provided by a dating app, users could of course still effectively filter with their eyes.OKCupid found, for example, that white, Asian, and Latina women were less likely to respond to messages from black and minority ethnic men, and men from all races were least likely to respond to messages from black women.Users, both before their journey and while at their destination, link up with other travellers.It is already proving popular.“Gay guys are extraordinarily social when we travel,” explains Silverberg.“I think the degree of scrutiny applied to a person’s choice of partner or sexual partner is a different degree of scrutiny than what would be applied to other spheres of social and public life.”What, then, does Scruff do about members explicitly stating on their profiles their apparent racial preferences? “We have a very strict policy,” replies Skandros, taking over from his business partner.