One month ago, a YouTube account under the name The Tinder Experiment posted a disturbing video of two men, one 31 and the other 43, meeting up with who they believed was a 15-year-old girl from Tinder.
In classic "To Catch a Predator" style, the girl in the vid isn't actually 15. She's 21 IRL and wanted to expose potential pedophiles who seek out young girls on Tinder. Two 25-year-old men helped her in her efforts, and media reports unofficially dubbed the team as the Tinder Vigilantes. They operated out of Melbourne, Australia and claim to have filmed at least 10 more interactions like the one shown above.
"As Tinder users ourselves, we noticed an alarming amount of inappropriate content in the app and wanted to gain a greater understanding of the mindset of people participating in such things," The Tinder Experiment anonymously told TechGeek. "We thought that this particular issue [older men meeting underage girls] was an important one so we tackled it first."
Here's how their experiments went down. First they set up a fake Tinder profile for a 15-year-old named Imogen. The 21-year-old playing the role of Imogen used photos that were six years old.
Imogen racked up over 400 matches, including men in their 30s, 40s and 50s, on the app. As all you Tinder fiends out there know, people sometimes get a little swipe-happy and swipe right without even reading the profile's description -- so Imogen always made sure to clarify her age in her messages.
Some reacted the way they should.
Some really didn't.
If anyone tried to hang out with Imogen in real life, The Tinder Experiment team secretly filmed their hangout sesh. When things started to get a little steamy -- like when the guy would put his arm around her or try to kiss her -- someone pretending to be Imogen's brother would suddenly burst into the room to question the guy about what the hell he was doing.
Sound familiar? Besides being exactly like "To Catch A Predator," this real-life setup is also freakishly similar to the plotline of MTV's new original series "Eye Candy." On the show, a tech wiz named Lindy is hunting down a serial killer who finds his victims through a Tinder-like dating app called Flirtual. She keeps tabs on her suspects by going on dates with them, just like how The Tinder Experiment crew organizes and films fake dates to catch potential perverts in action.
Even though Lindy's world is completely fictional, The Tinder Experiment proves creepiness is alive and well on dating apps.
"There’s always a minimum of four of us there," the group said about the safety of their project. "We always have a man close to Imogen (usually concealed within three metres) in case there’s an urgent need to diffuse a situation."
"There’s a lot of legal issues with what we’re doing if we go about it the wrong way," they further explained. "We’ve sought help from a legal aid and been advised not to file any [police] reports because there’s not much we can get [the men] for, and in fact, we could get ourselves into trouble instead.”
Possibly because of these legal and safety concerns, Victoria police told The Tinder Experiment to stop posting videos, effectively shutting down the operation. The team's Facebook was also taken down. Cops are investigating the footage that's already been released, though, so that's a plus.
The team promised to move their social experiments into less risky territory in the future, though there's no word on what we'll hear from them next.