Gay men in Egypt using Grindr may be vulnerable to entrapment by police posing as gay men and looking to arrest men on charges of debauchery and indecency, according to multiple media reports.
Grindr is a location-based dating app used around the world by gay men seeking casual sexual encounters with other gay or bi men — and for finding friends and romantic relationships.
The Washington Post recently cited a German newspaper, Sueddeutsche Zeitung, as its source for a story about Egyptian authorities who were exploiting Grindr's mobile app to locate and arrest gay men in Cairo. The Post did note that it could not independently confirm the German outlet's report.
However, the Post did confirm the authenticity of an Egyptian Twitter user with the handle @GrindrMap, whose website urges Grindr users in repressive and dangerous countries for LGBT people to protect themselves from being located by changing their settings on the Grindr app. The 20-year-old techie and activist uses mapping technology on his site to reveal how vulnerable Grindr users are to being found. As a precaution, the activist encourages users in hostile environments to disable Grindr's "distance" feature, which shows users how close they are, physically, to another user.
"It's a huge problem if Grindr runs such an infrastructure and doesn't act responsibly," the activist, whose name was not revealed, told the Post.
A Grindr spokesman indicated to The Advocate that a response to the Egypt story may be forthcoming, but did not provide comment by press time.
"Since October 2013, there has been a real manhunt for gay people in Egypt," an activist and so-called underground campaigner in Egypt told France 24. "The police aren’t just targeting well-known gay hangouts, they are increasingly raiding homes when they think there is an LGBT party going on."
The activist, who gave the French international outlet the name "Samia A," stressed that although Egypt's new government is secular, it is just as conservative as the one it overthrew, making the country still a dangerous place for LGBT people to live or visit.
"I think the new intensity of this repression is tied to the political situation in Egypt," Samia told France 24. "Since President [Abdel Fattah el-Sisi] came to power, he has wanted to show Egyptians that he is as conservative as the ousted Muslim Brotherhood."
As U.K.-based newspaper The Independent reports, homosexuality itself is not illegal in Egypt. Nevertheless, police in the Arab world's most populous country have reportedly been cracking down on public indecency, interpreting that ban to include expressions of same-gender attraction.
A video that went viral last month claimed to show Egypt's first gay wedding, and was promptly denounced by authorities, who called it an act of debauchery and arrested seven men featured in the video. At least one of those men claimed the entire affair was a misunderstanding of a joke about a ring and not a wedding ceremony at all. The seven who were arrested were "determined" by way of a "medical" examination not to be gay, despite the fact that such examinations have been called quackery and condemned by the global medical establishment.