Putin Bans Popular Russian Gay Dating App during Sochi Winter Olympics 2014
SOCHI, Russia – Dmitry T., founder of Hunters, one of the most popular Russian gay hook-up apps, posted on his Facebook page that his app was hacked affecting all its users’ profiles in Russia, on midnight, 1 February.
Dmitry said “I can’t believe it! Last night Hunters was hacked. This attack affected over 72,000 users in Russia, while in Sochi the app was completely blocked.”
According to Dmitry, the hackers didn’t leave any traces, but it is clear from an obvious spelling mistake that they were not native English speakers. “I’m sure that the attackers were acting in the interest of Russian authorities”, said the app founder.
An anonymous threat was texted via the app to all its users in Russia, including those in Sochi. The threat text reads: “you will be arrested and jailed for gay propaganda in Sochi according to Russian Federal Law #135 Section 6”. This was sent at 11.52PM on 1 February.
Hunters is now blocked in Sochi and Adler, and some 72,000 user profiles were deleted throughout Russia. The hackers have destroyed member’s profiles and all their message history. Dmitry reassured that users’ financial details were not compromised during this attack, as that data is reliably protected by Google and Apple.
On the morning of 2 February, just a few days before the opening of the Olympic Games, users who attempted to this app in Sochi were greeted with an alert text saying that their profile is blocked for the next 55,000 minutes (38 days).
Dmitry explained “it looks like the Russian Government decided to take full control of the Internet and implement a similar practice to that in Turkey where Grindr has been banned for almost half a year. I think that this attack is connected to increasing censorship of the Internet and very soon other gay dating sites in Russia may face similar problems”.
Dmitry added that it took the app’s team 12 hours to manage restoring 24% of the lost profiles. The rest are gone. As a precaution, the app founder said “in order to protect our users from future attacks, we have started moving our servers from Russia to Europe; this would take maximum five days”.
“I urge the entire gay community and all of those who consider the Internet to be a free zone to boycott not only Russian vodka but also everything that is linked to the Olympics and not to buy any Olympic souvenirs” protested Dmitry. “This attack should be looked upon as an attack on the worldwide gay community with the goal of blocking gay interactions during the Winter Games in Sochi, including those between athletes and locals”.
The Hunters app is home to over 1.2M users worldwide. The app is a resource for LGBT individuals to connect and hook-up. It also serves to provide them with support finding a home and jobs.