The Daily Beast website has removed a shockingly ill-considered article on the use of dating apps at the Rio Olympics that effectively outed a number of athletes.
To write his article, The Other Olympic Sport In Rio: Swiping, Nico Hines, who is straight, effectively posed as a gay man by creating a profile on the gay dating app Grindr.
He interacted with gay and same-sex attracted athletes in Rio in order to “investigate” the sex life of Olympians. There is, however, something deeply unsettling about a heterosexual man pretending to be gay to lure people out in order to make them subjects of an article without their consent.
It’s also not entirely clear what he aimed to achieve other than revealing to the world the unsurprising discovery that athletes have sex and may use dating apps to find it.
In the article, Hines didn’t name any of the athletes, but by mentioning their countries of origin, their sport and other information, a number of readers were able to easily identify some of those he wrote about.
While no-one should be outed without their consent, this is especially dangerous for those from countries in which homosexuality is a taboo or even illegal.
Hines’ invasion of privacy and unethical methods, especially for a piece that has little investigative value, was quickly attacked on social media and by various online publications.
Openly gay American Olympic skier Gus Kenworthy was one of the many who slammed Hines, tweeting: “So @NicoHines basically just outed a bunch of athletes in his quest to write a shitty @thedailybeast article where he admitted to entrapment.”
Out Tongan swimmer Amini Fonua also lashed out at the article, tweeting: “@NicoHines You fucking disgust me. Do you realize how many people’s lives you just ruined without any good reason but clickbait journalism?” He added: “Some of these people you just outed are my FRIENDS. With family and lives that are forever going to be affected by this.”
Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern wrote: “Several athletes who are closeted at home (and possibly to their own teammates) will wake up on Thursday morning to the news that the Daily Beast has outed them. Their teammates could ostracize and alienate them; their families could disown them; their countries could imprison them. And for what? A homophobic article about how a straight guy conned gay Olympians from anti-gay countries into hitting on him through Grindr?”
Olympians Gus Kenworthy and Amini Fonua spoke out against the article (Instagram / Twitter)
In response, The Daily Beast made changes to the piece in order to further obscure the identities of the athletes but still defended the article.
As outrage grew, the site admitted it had made a mistake. It finally removed the article and in a note from the editors apologised for the misstep.
“We were wrong. We’re sorry. And we apologise to the athletes who may have been inadvertently compromised by our story,” said Daily Beast.
“The article was not intended to do harm or degrade members of the LGBT community, but intent doesn’t matter, impact does. Our hope is that removing an article that is in conflict with both our values and what we aspire to as journalists will demonstrate how seriously we take our error,” the editors wrote.
The reality is that for some closeted Olympians this is too late. The information is out there and nothing is ever really deleted from the internet. The damage may already have been done.
A record-breaking more than 40 openly LGBT athletes are competing in the Rio Olympics, including South Africans Sunette Stella Viljoen (javelin) and Caster Semenya (running).