Does Tinder really have users in China and North Korea 'even though Facebook is banned'?
Dating app Tinder sparked much consternation, and no small amount of mockery, when it claimed on Wednesday that it has many users in China and North Korea.
During a flood of tweets sent out on its official account in response to a recent article in Vanity Fair that was somewhat critical of the service, Tinder said that the author should have spoken "to our many users in China and North Korea who find a way to meet people on Tinder even though Facebook is banned".
Tinder is highly dependent on Facebook, users have to login with their Facebook account, and the app draws data from their profile and uses it to help them find matches. Facebook is completely blocked in mainland China and North Korea.
Talk to our many users in China and North Korea who find a way to meet people on Tinder even though Facebook is banned.
— Tinder (@Tinder) August 11, 2015
"We have users in all 196 countries, including China and North Korea. We cannot disclose additional information on our userbase there," Tinder spokeswoman Rosette Pambakian told the South China Morning Post.
She did not respond to questions about how users in countries where Facebook is blocked could use the service.
"Bear in mind that North Koreans can't access the internet," said Simon Cockerell, general manager of Koryo Tours and longtime North Korea watcher.
"If they mean foreigners (who can access internet, and of course seeing blocked sites is a simple process) then 'many' is surely an overstatement as there aren't a great many foreigners there."
While users who registered a Tinder account with their Facebook profile before going to China or North Korea could feasibly use the service to see other users who did the same, this number is likely very small.
Tinder is available on China's three most popular app stores – Baidu, Tencent, and Qihoo 360 – but total recorded downloads are around 70,000 on Android smartphones, an impressive figure but a long way from the service's reported 50 million monthly users worldwide.
User reviews are also not good. One commenter on Qihoo's store complained that the app "is not suitable for Chinese people" due to the Facebook requirement.
"Not much use in China," another wrote.
Additional reporting by Kristine Servando