Gay dating app Grindr has disappeared from multiple app stores in China as authorities tighten control of the country’s already heavily policed internet and purge online behaviour the ruling Communist Party dislikes.

The country’s cyber authority is in the midst of a month-long campaign to root out illegal and sensitive content during the Lunar New Year holiday and February’s Winter Olympics.

Grindr. Photo: Ivan Radic, via Flickr CC 2.0.

Although the world’s most populous nation decriminalised homosexuality in 1997, same-sex marriage is illegal and LGBTQ issues remain taboo.

The LGBTQ community is under pressure as censorship of web content combines with a ban on depictions of gay romance in films.

Data from mobile research firm Qimai shows that Grindr was removed from Apple’s App Store in China on Thursday.

Searches for the matchmaking app on Android and similar platforms operated by Chinese companies also returned no results.

Google’s Play Store is not available in China.

Neither Grindr nor Apple responded to AFP requests for comment.

Local Grindr competitors such as Blued remain available for download.

The Chinese former owner of Grindr, Beijing Kunlun Tech, sold the app to investors in 2020 under pressure from US authorities concerned that the potential misuse of its data could present national security risks.

On Tuesday, the cyberspace administration announced a drive to crack down on rumours, pornography and other web content.

The campaign aims to “create a civilised, healthy, festive and auspicious online atmosphere for public opinion during the Lunar New Year,” the administration said in a statement.

Last year, social media accounts belonging to major university LGBTQ rights groups were blocked from the popular WeChat app.

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