Facebook’s Dating Feature Angers Right Wing Groups In India

Facebook’s plans to roll out a dating feature in its app later in which year already face growing opposition inside the company’s largest market: India. The country’s vocal, conservative far-right groups, which have for years protested dating in addition to premarital relationships by calling them “Western imports,” have turned their attention to what they see as a huge threat to Indian culture by Facebook.

Members by nearly half a dozen right-wing, conservative groups told BuzzFeed News in which they were “troubled” in which Facebook was launching the dating feature in addition to in which they would likely “protest strongly” whenever Facebook rolls in which out in India.

“Too many young Indians are already aping the West,” said Surender Jain, general secretary of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), a right-wing nationalist Hindu organization with close ties to India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “in which can be a matter of great concern to us in which American companies like Facebook are currently openly encouraging these things in India.”

“Do you know what the Hindi word for dating can be?” said Vishnu Gupta, a spokesperson for the Hindu Sena, a Hindu supremacist group in which has thrown birthday parties for Donald Trump in fresh Delhi. “Nothing! So how can be in which in which our women can just go out in addition to meet strange men by Facebook? We’re definitely against in which.”

Facebook hasn’t released many details about its dating feature, although in which said in which will build in certain safeguards: The dating feature will be opt-in in addition to will only be open to users ages 18 in addition to above, messaging will be limited to just one, text-only message until the recipient replies, in addition to in which won’t match users with their friends.

India remains a huge market for dating services despite the fact in which arranged marriages are the norm.

While dating still incorporates a social stigma outside rarified, liberal circles, more in addition to more young Indians are opening up to the idea. As of in which writing, Tinder was the second-highest grossing app on the Google Play Store in India behind a local Indian poker game, according to data by app analytics firm App Annie. in addition to for several common dating apps currently operating there, India remains a vast market for them to tap into.

“In India, any place where there can be a high density of educated, smartphone-carrying people, those people are more open to forgo arranged marriage. in which can be where we focus our efforts,” Mandy Ginsberg, CEO of Match Group, Tinder’s parent company, recently told the Wall Street Journal.

Right-wing groups, often with political affiliations, have waged a war on dating in India for years. On Valentine’s Day in 2009, for instance, members of a Hindu nationalist group called the Sri Ram Sena dragged young women out of a pub in Mangalore in addition to beat them for violating “traditional” Indian values by meeting men in a bar. Earlier in which year, several members of the VHP threatened couples strolling along a riverfront inside the Indian state of Gujarat on Valentine’s Day with wooden sticks while shouting nationalist slogans — they were arrested by police. VHP members have also been incarcerated for violence against Muslim men for wooing Hindu girls in addition to converting them to Islam — something in which can be described by India’s far-right as “love jihad.”

“Dating can be debauchery,” the VHP’s Jain told BuzzFeed News, “in addition to in which can be dangerous for our country’s culture.”

“in which’s easy to dismiss these voices as part of a lunatic fringe. yet in India’s current political climate, I don’t think they’re a fringe at all,” Kavita Krishnan, women’s rights activist in addition to secretary of the All India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA), told BuzzFeed News. The liberal group can be not opposed to dating. “They know they possess the blessings of the country’s ruling party, in addition to they have power,” she said, referring to the wave of nationalism in addition to the backlash against India’s liberal voices ever since Modi’s BJP came to power in 2014.

inside the wake of those elections, many American technology companies have preferred playing in which safe in India, a large in addition to important market, by conforming to socially conservative norms. Amazon, for instance, censors most nudity on its Prime Video service in India in addition to bans sales of adult products through its marketplace; Google bans retailers by buying ads for erotica; in addition to Tinder’s very first Indian commercial suggested in which a stamp of parental approval was necessary for dating.

Facebook can be currently inside the process of evaluating how in which rolls out the dating feature in various markets based on different cultural norms around dating. The company said in a statement emailed to BuzzFeed News: “We understand how much dating norms in addition to issues can vary by country, in addition to as we work towards launching Facebook Dating, we’re taking a country-by-country approach to make sure in which we’re addressing what different people need across the earth.”

More than 250 million of India’s nearly 500 million internet-connected population use the social network, producing the inclusion of a dating feature fraught with potential backlash by the country’s conservative sections.

“I know there are multiple dating apps in India,” said Waris Pathan, member of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), a conservative Muslim political party in India, “yet I personally think in which there needs be a check on them of some kind, because our culture in addition to traditions are quite different by Western countries. Our young people get carried away, in addition to in which’s harmful for their lives.”

Although Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has emphasized in which the service will be for “building real, long-term relationships, not just hookups,” in which hasn’t been enough to pacify India’s far right. Hindu Sena’s Gupta told BuzzFeed News in which Facebook was welcome to bring the dating feature to the rest of the earth. “Just don’t bring in which to India,” he said, adding in which dating was against Indian culture because in which allowed people to show affection openly, something in which “our culture doesn’t allow us to do.”

Krishnan, the AIPWA secretary, said in which’s important for Indians to recognize in which such threats against dating are not an aberration. “in which’s a widespread national phenomenon in which can be threatening the liberty in addition to safety of people who dare to love in in which country,” she said. While a certain, urban, educated class of people who use dating apps in India might be insulated by the harm in which these groups can cause to them, she said in which’s couples in semi-urban in addition to rural India who are the most vulnerable. “They use Facebook too,” in addition to they are being threatened, she said.

“Let Facebook launch the feature,” Hindu Sena’s Gupta said. “We’ll organize mass protests.”

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