Bumble is the latest company — though one of the first tech companies — to take a strong stance against gun culture following the school shooting in Parkland, Florida. Today, the company announced that it will remove all photos on the app that show users with guns, with the exception of military or law enforcement officials. The photos will be moderated in coming weeks.
While Bumble was not the first dating app on the scene, it has disrupted the space since its founding in 2014 by positioning itself as a catalyst for women. Over the years, the company has publicly called out and banned users who demonstrate misogyny and hate speech. In August, Bumble partnered with the Anti-Demataion League after its employees were targeted by white supremacist groups. The company has served as an outspoken leader and advocate at a time when many tech companies are being called out for failing to ban inflammatory users on their platforms.
With today's decision, Bumble is once again setting a new standard. Other dating apps have not yet taken steps to ban images of firearms: The dating app Hinge, for example, allows photos of users hunting or skeet shooting. Instagram, meanwhile, also allows images of users hunting and displaying firearms.
Ahead, Bumble founder and CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd talks to Refinery29 about the thinking behind today's announcement.
How did the decision to ban photos of users with guns come about?
"We're trying to keep this as non-judgmental as possible. This is not an effort to alienate people who choose to do certain things habitually, or given where they're from, or what they like to do. This is us being proactive to what's taking place in our country right now. What might be perceived as a hobby to some has turned into a very violent subject and something that is taking lives across our country in a way that should not be taking place under any circumstances. Until there's reform, until there's actual action taking place to make sure people do behave responsibly with guns, they don't deserve a place on our platform. They don't have a home with us."
What will you say to people who take offense to this?
"Here's the thing — we're not here to tell you your beliefs are wrong. We're not here to judge you on what your hobbies are or what you care about. What we're here to say is that we were founded with safety in mind. We are a business that was built with the promise of making a more safe, kind, inclusive environment and ecosystem, and building a community where people feel safe and empowered.
"We are not okay with extreme violence taking place. Enough is enough. No one should be afforded the right to have a photo of them carrying a gun that they think is a fun side hobby when people are dying every single day because of the violence stemming from this. Until the violence can get under control, we have to take a stand for something."
Is moderation of gun photos something you had considered doing before the events of the past couple of weeks?
"It's always been a topic of discussion internally with our team. We do things collaboratively — this is not a singular decision coming just from myself or the executive team. We engaged our whole hive. We have so many different people on our team — we have Republicans, we have Democrats, we have people with family members who are card carrying NRA members, we have people who have been affected by gun violence. We have people who stand at every corner of this moment in time. Ultimately, where everyone landed at the end of the day is safety is primary and that is core to our values.
"Until there can be some reform around the way people get and use weapons, we just should not make that part of connecting. Bumble is a fun, playful, empowered place to make new connections. We do not believe that those words and values line up with what guns are.
"I feel like it's my duty as the CEO of a tech company to take a stance and try to push things in a progressive direction."
Some women might want to see that the person they're going on a date with is a gun owner. What would you say to them?
"That's absolutely something we have discussed internally as a team. But where we landed is that the more you encourage people to showcase something in such a casual way, the more it can inspire casual behavior around that. It's a little bit like video games. If you let guns be a part of video games, it has a ripple effect on real life behavior.
"If [on a dating app] people are showcasing their guns and it's helping them get matches and attention, what is that saying to the person who will misuse that? What type of statement does that make to somebody who might not behave mindfully with a weapon?
"It's on us to make the normalization of weaponry not so normal. It should not be so casual."
Are you hoping that by making this change, other tech companies and dating apps will follow suit?
"We have been banning any misogynistic behavior on our platform from the beginning. We take it very seriously and have a zero tolerance policy. I would love to see more tech companies hold their users accountable. There should be consequences when you put somebody else at risk by being abusive or offensive or hateful. The gun piece is just one component of this."
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.