Suraj Patel is currently running for Congress in New York City‘s 12th District. In the Democratic primary, he’s up against 13-term incumbent Carolyn Maloney. Patel knows unseating a long-time politician can be difficult, so his campaign tried a new idea: setting up fake dating profiles on different dating apps. Unfortunately for Patel, his fake dating profile strategy has backfired.
The Suraj Patel campaign calls the technique “Tinder-banking.” An internal document describes the process. Volunteers are asked to set up a fake dating app profile with pro-Patel images provided by the campaign. The document points out that human photos are best, and encourages volunteers to “pick a stock hottie from unsplash.com,” a free photo website. From there, volunteers are encouraged to “swipe right on most people,” an action which matches you up with other people’s dating profiles.
When there’s a response, volunteers are to ask about tomorrow’s Democratic primary election in New York City, answer questions about the candidates and encourage them to vote. Volunteers are told to “keep the mood generally light-hearted and flirty. Stay positive even if your match gets testy!” As a final tip, the document suggests, “When in doubt, sending a funny gif is an amazing opt-out strategy! :)”
Understandably, Suraj Patel’s approach has proven to be … not popular. Patel has been raked over the coals on Twitter. But it’s not just Twitter; David Kilmnick, President of the New York LGBT Network has come out against Patel’s fake dating profile strategy as well.
In a statement, Kilmnick wrote, “On the day of NYC Pride, where hundreds of thousands will be brave and courageous coming out as their true authentic selves for being LGBT, Suraj Patel’s actions are unethical and demonstrates he’s out of touch with issues that LGBT people face every day. These dating apps are designed to be safe spaces for LGBT people to meet one another.”
Kilmnick added, “The creation of fake profiles and to ‘pretend’ to be LGBT to reel people in is nothing more than total dishonesty and makes light of the struggles and violence many LGBT people face in our country today. We already have enough cluelessness in Washington, D.C., now; we do not need to add to that, we need to fight it.”
Suraj Patel teaches business ethics at New York University. Despite the fake dating profile strategy not being what most would call “ethical,” Patel is proud of his strategy, saying, “What if Tinder banking works so well that we get 1,000 extra votes? Shouldn’t the party be like, ‘Cool, let’s start doing this.’ I find the lack of creativity in politics appalling.”
He added, “It’s kinda like catfishing, but you are telling people who you are.”
As it turns out, Suraj Patel engages in his strategy personally. He uses a photo of his brother on his own fake dating profile.