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What Went Wrong With the Viral Group Chat Where Women Reviewed Guys on Dating Apps

The group chat was deleted in three days after doxxing concerns but women’s rights activists point to a lingering need for safe spaces.
October 19, 2021, 11:05am
A Singaporean influencer created a group chat for women to discuss the guys they meet on dating apps
A Singaporean influencer created a group chat for women to discuss the guys they meet on dating apps. It immediately became the target of public criticism. Photo for illustrative purposes only. Photo: Paul HanaokaUnsplash

The plan seemed like a good idea: a group chat where women could exchange intel with one another about guys they’ve dated, weeding out the ones with major red flags and protecting others from potentially dangerous encounters.

On Saturday, Koh Boon Ki, a 22-year-old Singaporean TikToker who usually shares comedy skits and dance videos to over 112,000 followers, posted a video suggesting that women should create a group chat where they could exchange reviews of guys they meet on dating apps. But just days after it was created, what was meant to be a safe space for women has led to serious allegations of sexual assault, doxxing concerns, and widespread public backlash.

It has also sparked a public conversation about dating dangers faced by women in Singapore and the lack of a channel for people to share deeply personal experiences.

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Koh’s idea for a women-only group chat was born out of sheer curiosity. Since Singapore is small and its population extremely connected, women are likely talking to the same set of men on dating apps, Koh explained. Before continuing a conversation with one of these guys, she’d like to talk to women who have dated them first.

“That was the idea. But it was a very raw idea. I didn’t put a lot of thought into it,” Koh told VICE, adding that she didn’t know how such a community would work in reality, before posting her viral TikTok video and subsequently setting up a Telegram group chat.

When the TikTok video blew up over the weekend, Koh found herself the administrator of a group chat with about 250 members who were eager to spill the tea on their dating lives, or warn other women of dating dangers. One of the group’s members also created a public document called “Dating Guide SG,” which appeared to contain rows of men to “blacklist” and “avoid.”

Both the group chat and the document have since been deleted, Koh told VICE on Monday. But screenshots were already taken, with other social media users putting the document on blast.

Some were supportive of Koh’s idea, while others were quick to point out what could go wrong with such a group without proper moderation.

Glennice Tong, one of the earliest skeptics, made a TikTok video warning against the creation of such a community, describing the group chat as “damaging” and pointing to the possibility of spreading unfounded but serious allegations.

A women-only group chat sounded like a good idea at first, Tong told VICE, but she soon realized how such a group would be susceptible to the spread of misinformation with ill-intentioned claims.

“A lot of experiences are based on hearsay and it’s hard to know what’s true and what isn’t,” Tong said, adding that misallegations may serve to fuel public skepticism of real experiences, including those of sexual assault survivors. 

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The public document was quickly filled with rows of personal details including the full names and phone numbers of some men, along with serious allegations like money extortion, sexual assault, domestic violence, and filming sex partners without their consent.

Under Singapore’s Protection from Harassment Act, those convicted of doxxing and harassment may face a fine of up to SG$5,000 ($3,715) and/or an imprisonment term of up to six months. 

Many are comparing Koh’s community to another infamous Singaporean group chat called SG Nasi Lemak, where obscene images of women were shared. The group reportedly had up to 44,000 members and appeared to be active for nearly a year before it was shut down in 2019 amid police investigation. The group chat Koh created, on the other hand, was deleted after three days amid intense public pressure. Koh said that comparisons with the SG Nasi Lemak group were “very far-fetched.”

Vanessa, the founder of UpandOut, a Singapore-based platform that advocates for holistic sex education, sees the importance of having a community where women can offer support to one another.

“The dangers women face in the dating scene is sadly, nothing new,” said the 23-year-old student, who wishes to keep her last name anonymous while she is on a break from social media.

However, Vanessa noted how allegations of harassment or assault without proper evidence could quickly turn into a legal issue.

“I think online dating can get toxic very often because the nature of it is superficial, so it’s definitely helpful to have support. But I guess this was not a good execution of it,” she said of Koh’s group chat.

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As public backlash snowballed, Koh has since acknowledged the flaws in her idea for a women-only dating group chat, such as her inability to verify claims and the lack of moderation for its content.

But she also caught a glimpse of what the short-lived community could have been, had better ground rules been laid out from the start: A safe space for women to support one another.

“The girls, they feel safe to share what happened to them, because I don’t think there are enough platforms for you to be able to voice out when such things happen to you,” said Koh.

“But I can also understand how [people] can imagine things going very wrong,” she added.

The idea of an online community for women to warn one another of potential dating dangers has found resonance beyond Singapore. Taking reference from Koh, at least one Twitter user appears to be creating a similar group chat for women in Malaysia.

While the public discourse around Koh’s group chat has largely followed a women-vs-men narrative, some point to the fact that dating dangers are not limited to women.

“Exposure to danger in the dating world does not boil down to gender exclusively. Anyone can be a target or a victim of a crime,” said Nicole Lim, producer and host of Something Private, a podcast that focuses on gender issues and women’s health. “Specifically relating to this whole incident, I appreciate greatly the intention behind wanting to create a safe space for individuals to share their experience.”

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The saga following the women-only group chat has also prompted heated public discussion about institutional gaps in creating safe spaces for people to be vulnerable, like sharing incidents of sexual assault. 

According to Singapore’s Sexual Assault Care Centre, seven out of 10 of its clients ultimately decide against making an official report about their experiences—whether it’s because of inaccessible complaint channels, a lack of sensitivity from first responders, or a culture that trivializes such trauma.

“Many dismiss these attempts as irresponsible and inappropriate, but at the same time, we should ask ourselves why sexual violence survivors are turning to such methods to share experiences of assault in the first place,” said Kelly Leow, the communications manager of the Association of Women for Action and Research, a Singapore-based gender equality advocacy group. 

She added that dating apps have made it easier for assaulters to contact potential victims, before engaging in acts of sexual violence that disregard women’s consent and agency.

“Institutional processes that deal with sexual violence need to be improved. Otherwise, survivors will continue to feel compelled to seek some measure of ‘justice’ in other ways.”

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