December 12, 2019

Labour activists using Tinder election bots to sway vote

The UK's general election is seeing dating-tech enter the fray, with left-wing activists running a Tinder bot to boost the Corbyn vote. But does it really work?

Tinder has become an unlikely canvassing ground in today's UK general election in another sign tech could help sway elections.

Labour activists are taking over hundreds of young people's Tinder profiles using an automated bot to send anti-Conservative messages, for the second election in a row.

Users can sign up online and then hand over a Tinder access code to a volunteer. From then on the bot takes over that person's profile, setting their location inside a marginal seat where the outcome could ride on just a few votes. It then swipes right incessantly. When a match appears, an automatic message about the election (similar to the one pictured below) is sent to the unexpectant potential date.

Sifted journalists trial the bot...

What's at stake?

The UK has a reticent young voter base; 36% of 18 to 24 year-olds didn't turn up to the ballot box in the last general election. Yet Tinder is a popular app among this age group; research shows over a quarter of young voters use Tinder in the UK.

This is not the first time the bot has been used in an election — it was first trialled in 2017, set up by two female coders in their 20s.

But notably, the Tinder bot's style has changed since the last election. Previously, the bot simply encouraged the match to go out and vote, but this time the messages are more frantic, brash and explicitly anti-Conservative; a nod to how tense and polarised this election campaign has been.

“Hello there, may I ask if you’re voting tomorrow? ‘Cos fuck Boris Johnson", one variant of the automated text read. Another noted: "Hellooo this is a bit random but it's ELECTION and I'm so excited to get ride [sic] of boris and His billionaire friends!! don't forget to Vote". 

Activists have spread the word over social media to recruit Tinder users to donate their profiles to the cause. But with a few rules: you must be 18-35 and you must set your preferences to echo your usual sexual orientation. A WhatsApp group called HOT TINDER BOTS FCKBORIS provides a forum for everyone to discuss progress and any technical problems.

Tinder did not respond to request for comment.

A tough gig

It's difficult to gauge how much the bot really influences the vote. But by mid-afternoon today, the team said they had already managed to send out over 5000* individual messages on a platform of highly-engaged, young users in marginal constituencies.

That's surely more efficient than campaigners' usual tactic of door-knocking to persuade people to make the trip to their polling stations. 

Still, the polls show Conservative leader Boris Johnson has a healthy lead over Labour's Jeremy Corbyn, meaning an army of Tinder bots would probably be needed to swing the vote.

Two of our Sifted reporters tried using the bot and, while some replies were positive, the response wasn't particularly encouraging; perhaps due to the nature of the platform.

One said: “Do me instead?" Another responded: "Big up Tommy Robinson," while one replied: "Fuck Jeremy."


Other matches replied asking why they should vote Labour, but the bot isn't trained to engage any further, leaving something of a void. One pre-written message also inaccurately told matches the election was tomorrow. Equally, a number of people had already voted, creating the impression of a cosy echo-chamber of similar-minded democrats.

Overall, Sifted's reporters were not exactly winning hearts and minds.

Correction: The number of Tinder users among young voters has been amended.

*This number rose to ~20,000 by the end of the campaign.