Bumble Calls on U.K. Government to Make Cyberflashing a Crime
When Whitney Wolfe Herd founded Bumble in 2014, safety was central to her mission: she sought to create an online space where women could make the first move without fear of harassment, misogyny, or any of the other toxicity that has long plagued the internet.
While we’ve done our best to curb bad behavior—using tools ranging from human moderation to A.I. technology—recent studies have shown us that more should be done across the internet, particularly when it comes to the sending of unsolicited images or video recordings of genitals without consent.
Cyberflashing is a pervasive problem, experienced disproportionately by women. Research from data analytics firm YouGov shows that four in 10 millennial women (41%) have been sent an unsolicited photo of a man’s genitals (dick pics, colloquially) without consent. Bumble’s own research* suggests this figure could be even higher, with nearly half (48%) of those aged 18 to 24 receiving a sexual photo they didn’t ask for in the last year alone.
These explicit images are regularly sent on social media and messaging apps, as well as via AirDrop, WiFi, and Bluetooth, and women are disproportionately the recipients. The distress caused often leaves a lasting impact, changing how women perceive safety and interact with the internet as a whole.
Surprisingly, cyberflashing is not criminalised in the same way that physical flashing is. In many countries, physical flashing is classified as a criminal offence punishable by fines and, in some cases, imprisonment. In Scotland, cyberflashing has been classified as a sexual offence for over a decade.
Now, following the success of similar legislative efforts in the U.S., Bumble is calling for the criminalisation of cyberflashing in England and Wales.
We’ll be working alongside politicians, organisations, and members of the public—including you, our Bumble community—to call on the U.K. Government to enact a law that makes the unsolicited sending of nude images illegal. If flashing wouldn’t fly on the street—or at the office, or in the classroom—it shouldn’t be tolerated in your inbox.
Since early November, Bumble has been raising awareness about the prevalence of cyberflashing and campaigning to criminalise this abhorrent behaviour. Working with UN Women U.K., the United Nations’ gender equality arm, we have been holding cross-party Parliamentary consultations to galvanise support from Members of Parliament in the U.K.
Now we are calling on you to help us end this form of harassment—by writing to your MPs, using this template, so we can collectively bring standards of conduct on the internet closer in line with our standards of behavior in the real world. You can find contact details for your MP here or tweet them. To learn more about our campaign follow @Bumble_uki on Instagram and share your experiences of cyberflashing using #DigitalFlashingIsFlashing.
* 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).