China’s top social media app WeChat has banned the “SeekingArrangement” dating website, popularly known as the ‘sugar daddy” app, following criticism from state media that said it was a front for prostitution.
It became one of the most downloaded applications in three days earlier this week following which it came under critical scrutiny from state media.
“Authorities in Shanghai have launched a probe into a company registered in the city that developed a mobile application providing dating services which allegedly sexualize and exploit women,” the nationalistic Global Times tabloid carried a report on it under the headline “Mobile app under investigation for providing shady dating service”.
On Monday, the Global Times revealed that a company received a licence in the Shanghai Free Trade Zone and launched an app called SeekingArrangement on both iOS and Android platforms in China.
“Infamous for connecting wealthy older men with young women online and sometimes referred to as a “sugar daddy” app, SeekingArrangement entered the country in 2015 with a Chinese language site and apps,” the newspaper reported.
The app asks its male members to list their financial status during registration — annual income starting from 300,000 yuan ($47,350), and net assets from 600,000 yuan, though the company said it doesn’t require any bank documents for verification.
Yi Shenghua, a criminal lawyer, told the state media that services provided by such websites, though disguised as dating or matchmaking can be classified as organising or sheltering prostitution, and the website’s founder and operator could face criminal charges, depending on the amount of cash traded and the number of people involved.
A Reuters report said the app, launched in the United States in 2006, puts young women in touch with rich older men. “At SA, we pride ourselves on helping you find the ultimate generous Sugar Daddy. Bills paid, gifts galore, and top-shelf fun,” the report quoted its US website as saying.
“Our Chinese product is exclusively developed for the local market and would definitely abide by the law here,” an unnamed employee at SeekingArrangement told China Daily.
He said that the Chinese website and applications are designed as a premium platform that functions like any other legal dating site in China. The only difference would be that it targets “successful men of high quality and fine taste”.