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Scruff gay dating app bans underwear photos

Gay dating app Scruff has been criticised for banning images of men in underwear and swimming trunks.

Scruff said it had changed its profile picture rules after "repeated suspensions by app store distributors".

The app has disappeared from Google Play several times in recent months. In January, it was removed for three days. And a source told BBC News it had been suspended during these periods.

Google told BBC News it did not comment on individual apps.

Several Scruff members responded to the announcement on social media, threatening to delete their accounts.

"Craigslist, Backpage, Tumblr, now even Scruff, a gay dating app you have to be of consenting age to use, is censoring how its users can post photos? This isn't looking so good guys," said vlogger Amp, who runs a sex education YouTube channel with 170,000 subscribers.

'Explicit content'

Scruff is a social network and dating app for gay, bisexual and trans men. Members can browse a grid of profiles and speak to people in their area, or explore other locations.

However, the app has disappeared from Google Play several times in recent months. In January, it was removed for three days before returning.

In a blog post about the app's temporary disappearance from Google Play in January, the company said: "Had this removal been permanent, it would have been devastating to our company and our community."

It had now enacted "wide-ranging changes to its profile photo content guidelines" in order to "ensure continued and full compliance", the blog post added.

The company also told BBC News it took content moderation seriously.

Google declined to tell BBC News why Scruff had been removed from the app store several times.

Part of the challenge facing Scruff and similar apps "is the fact that different app stores publish guidelines with varying degrees of specificity", chief executive Eric Silverberg told BBC News.

Google does publish a policy for app developers regarding sexually explicit content but it is very short and subject to interpretation.

While images of sex toys, sex acts and sex with animals are expressly forbidden, the policy otherwise bans only "sexually suggestive poses".

Prior to the change, Scruff's policies already forbade:

  • suggestive or explicit sexual acts
  • exposed buttocks
  • covering the genitals with hands, towels or other objects

Its updated policy also bans:

  • photos taken in the shower
  • photos in swimming trunks or underwear
  • lowering the waistband to draw attention to the groin

Last week, when the updated policy was introduced, it also banned photos of "hugging and kissing" but his has now been changed to "sexually suggestive embraces" following criticism from its members.

Scruff said existing profile photos would be rechecked to ensure compliance with the new policy.

Rival dating app Grindr and LGBT social network Hornet both told BBC News they had not been suspended from Google Play.

However, the fetish app Recon is not available on Google Play, although a tamer version of Recon, which filters more explicit profile images, is available on Apple's App Store.

While Google declined to comment, it made clear that its moderators did not discriminate based on sexuality or gender identity.

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