‘Are we dating the same guy?’ The problematic side of groups that call out toxic men

‘Are We Dating The Same Guy?’ Facebook groups have caught on around the world. They were born from a mission to warn other women about men who behave dishonestly on social media, but a defamation lawsuit has revealed their challenges

Facebook groups in which women warn each other of men’s toxic behavior on dating apps were born from the risks to which these networks have given rise, but they are also places where defamation can run rampant.
Facebook groups in which women warn each other of men’s toxic behavior on dating apps were born from the risks to which these networks have given rise, but they are also places where defamation can run rampant.Collage: Blanca López

Dating and hookup apps have changed the way that we look for sexual and affective relationships, but they’ve also opened up new avenues for the kinds of toxic behavior that are as old as love and lust. It’s not just so-called ghosting, the practice of disappearing with no explanation from one day to the next (according to a study by the University of Western Ontario, 72% of respondents had experienced this), but also identity fraud and dishonesty when it comes to seeing other people. One response to modern-day fears that can pop up before going on a date with a stranger is the enormous popularity of Facebook groups called Are We Dating The Same Guy?

Such groups exist in countries around the world. They are organized by city (there are versions from New York to Bogota, from Barcelona to Madrid). The online spaces were born from a simple goal: users upload images of the men they date on Tinder to make sure they’re not dating anyone else, a quick way to check that they’re not wasting their time trying for a relationship. But the groups quickly expanded into a place where one can warn others of certain men’s red flags: warning signs of problematic attitudes or behaviors.

The groups are private. To join, one must fill out a survey and wait the verdict of their administrators. They have several rules, including a prohibition on giving out men’s personal information or exposing their last names or addresses, as well as (à la Fight Club) not taking screenshots people outside the group that show what is being talked about.

Nuria Moreno, a lawyer who specializes in privacy, pointed out to EL PAÍS that the first legal error (at least, in Spain) that is committed by these groups starts with their most elemental practice: sharing an image that a person has uploaded to a dating app. Legally in Spain, under European regulations, even if someone has posted a photo to a social network and therefore, expressly authorized its terms of use, that image is only approved for use on that particular platform. “You can’t take a photo and do whatever you want with it without express authorization,” Moreno says. “That would be violating a fundamental right. Although these groups are private, they still use individuals’ data.” Moreno points out that Spain is a better guarantor of privacy protection than the United States, where there is no federal law that regulates data privacy.

The dark corners of love’s TripAdvisor

This type of affective TripAdvisor was initially well-received. Last year, The Guardian said that these groups “can offer a sense of camaraderie in a confusing and often lonely landscape. There are just as many posts thanking other women for their support and trying to organize Galentine’s meet-ups as there are horror stories and red flag emojis.” The British publication did mention an interesting caveat: “As it stands, all of the groups serve women dating men. To gender-flip the issue would obfuscate the reality of who’s most at risk, but there’s no question that groups of men posting details about women would be far more controversial.”

That same year publications like The New York Times heralded their rise, saying, “These groups provide the women with a sense of security. The posts act as endorsements — like Yelp reviews for potential mates.” Although, that article did sound the alarm that they “have become increasingly criticized for divisiveness, toxicity, defamation and privacy issues.”

Aplicaciones de citas
Tinder has become a popular way to find a mate, but it has also given rise to negative consequences.Getty / Collage: Blanca López

Rules of these groups are strict. The description of a chapter in New York reads, “This group is to protect women, not judge men.” Of course, men are barred from taking part. Nonetheless, one must only sign in to a group to see that it is common for them to gain access under false pretenses to protest being judged.

The man who sued a group

On certain occasions, some of those men turn to the legal system for justice, as is the case with Nikko D’Ambrosio, who on January 11, at the Illinois Northern District Court, became the first man to sue one of these groups. D’Ambrosio sued 27 women, a man, Meta and other social media business for more than $75,000 in damage, alleging that his was the object of defamation, doxing and invasion of privacy, saying that the statements made by the Facebook group have affected his reputation, according to judicial documents that were obtained by Today.

“Thousands of men have been potentially defamed by members of the group via these online publications, and remain entirely unaware of the attacks on their character as a result of the social media group’s private status and heavily moderated members list,” the suit says. His lawyer Marc Trent, of Trent Law Firm, tells EL PAÍS via a Zoom call that he has been “receiving calls from men from different parts of the world whose lives are being destroyed.” He goes on to explain the injustice being visited upon his client: “A woman uploaded a post to the group in which she called him a psychopath. This is not defamatory per se, it is freedom of speech, so you cannot sue. However, other people commented on that same post stating that our client is a sexual predator, and uploaded a news item referencing the conviction of a completely different man. They posted this news item below our client’s image, with the police photo of this sexual predator, who has been convicted, claiming that they are the same person. That is defamation,” he says.

Men aren’t the only ones who feel that these groups aren’t fulfilling their original, legitimate goals. A message from a woman who calls herself Erin says that she is dating one of the men who is being bombarded in one of these groups and alleges that absolutely none of the accusations fit his actual personality. “I joined the group because they told me that they were talking about a man I was dating,” Erin explains to EL PAÍS. “I wanted to see what they were saying about him. At first, I was scared, but then I realized I was believing people I didn’t know instead of trusting the man I was getting to know. Then I looked at the posted information objectively and I realized that most of the things that they said were misrepresented.” Erin says that these groups are no longer fulfilling the initial purpose for which they were formed. “We need to start differentiating facts from opinions, recognize that not everyone is perfect and that just because a relationship doesn’t work out, that doesn’t make someone a bad person.”

What happens on the app doesn’t stay on the app

But in addition to fear of toxic behavior, fears of violence have found their way onto dating apps. According to a study by the Spanish Federación de Mujeres Jóvenes (Young Women’s Federation), “60% of users have felt pressured to keep a relationship going and up to 21.7% say they have suffered sexual assault with violence.” Even if these groups have been criticized, their enormous popularity does demonstrate a growing concern when it comes to safety in online dating.

Alba Durán, Spanish marketing director for Bumble, confirms that the platform is aware of these groups’ existence, but that, “at the moment, we do not proactively monitor private social media groups where discussions about behavior on our platform may occur. However, people who have suffered harm can report it to Bumble through the app or our online form, regardless of whether or not they have an account with us.”

Sign up for our weekly newsletter to get more English-language news coverage from EL PAÍS USA Edition

Tu suscripción se está usando en otro dispositivo

¿Quieres añadir otro usuario a tu suscripción?

Si continúas leyendo en este dispositivo, no se podrá leer en el otro.

¿Por qué estás viendo esto?


Tu suscripción se está usando en otro dispositivo y solo puedes acceder a EL PAÍS desde un dispositivo a la vez.

Si quieres compartir tu cuenta, cambia tu suscripción a la modalidad Premium, así podrás añadir otro usuario. Cada uno accederá con su propia cuenta de email, lo que os permitirá personalizar vuestra experiencia en EL PAÍS.

En el caso de no saber quién está usando tu cuenta, te recomendamos cambiar tu contraseña aquí.

Si decides continuar compartiendo tu cuenta, este mensaje se mostrará en tu dispositivo y en el de la otra persona que está usando tu cuenta de forma indefinida, afectando a tu experiencia de lectura. Puedes consultar aquí los términos y condiciones de la suscripción digital.

More information

Archived In

Recomendaciones EL PAÍS
Recomendaciones EL PAÍS