Understanding risks of apps for LGBTQ communities

Repression and marginalisation of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Queer (LGBTQ) people across the world have limited safe opportunities for LGBTQ people to meet up but this is especially true for communities in the Middle East and North Africa.

Targeting of LGBTQ groups in the MENA region reached a climax in September 2017 when more than 50 people were arrested because of their gender and sexual identities in Egypt after the rainbow flag was flown during a concert. Many of these arrests happened via entrapment through LGBTQ dating apps.

Social and dating apps help LGBTQ groups connect and communicate but they are also putting users at risk.

We have researched how LGBTQ individuals are using social and dating apps in Lebanon, Iran and Egypt and the risks they face. While these countries differ in the levels and types of risks posed to users, LGBTQ groups in all three heavily rely on apps to communicate, date, ‘hook-up’ and fall in love.

We also investigated how LGBTQ communities feel about these risks and their own safety; and what measures need to be taken by dating apps and technologies to protect their users from state and non-state surveillance.

We have been working with app companies, technical experts and local civil society to produce recommendations for apps and technologies to protect the security and safety of their users.


” The drive for sex, love, intimacy and association is stronger than the fear of risk” 60% of users we surveyed will continue to use apps despite the risks. “

― This means apps must take action to make their services safer for LGBTQ groups at risk.

Dating apps must do more to protect LGBTQ communities

Dating apps have revolutionised how we date, hook-up and even find love. But while these apps have become so widely used, they are also being misused and weaponised against communities in high-risk contexts.

Read more about how popular dating apps are being used by LGBTQ people in Egypt, Lebanon and Iran; the risks they face from both state and non-state actors; and how apps, businesses, civil society and technology groups need to work together to reduce the impact of repressive crackdowns on communities and protect individuals online.

Read the blog

Apps, arrests and abuse in Egypt, Lebanon and Iran

Our research: Apps, arrests and abuse in Egypt, Lebanon and Iran

This summary presents findings about LGBTQ communities’ use of apps in  Egypt, Lebanon and Iran.

We investigate how individuals feel about their own security when using apps to connect with others; the risks they face from state and non-state actors; and how apps, platforms and technology companies need to address these risks to increase the safety and security of their users.

Read report

Apps, arrests and abuse in Egypt, Lebanon and Iran

LGBTQ factsheets

Based on our research we have produced a series of factsheets to help support and empower LGBTQ communities to mitigate the risks they face in Iran, Lebanon and Egypt. We offer practical safety, health and legal advice.

Factsheets: Sexual health

These factsheets give practical guidance for maintaining good sexual health and advise how communities can  seek trusted professional medical support.

Read sexual health factsheets for LGBTQ communities living in:

Iran Egypt Lebanon

Factsheets: Laws that affect you

We provide practical information for LGBTQ communities about the laws in Iran, Egypt and Lebanon; what is legal and illegal; and how to seek support on legal issues they may encounter.

Read laws that affect you  factsheets for LGBTQ communities living in:

Iran Egypt Lebanon

Factsheets: Your rights and what to do if arrested

Although the legal system and parts of society are hostile to LGBTQ people in Egypt, Iran and Lebanon, there are ways individuals can protect themselves against abuse if they understand the laws which affect them; their rights; and what they can do to protect themselves if arrested.

Read Your rights and what to do if arrested factsheets on:




At what risks do LGBTQ individuals use dating and social apps in Iran and Egypt?