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KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 20 — Sugarbook, the controversial dating app for sugar babies and sugar daddies or wealthy men seeking companionship and fun, is no stranger to controversy since it started in 2017.
Despite the negative publicity it received recently over advertisements on two digital billboards featuring its smartphone app, chief executive Darren Chan said he aspires to “uplift women” by providing them a platform to choose freely, without any judgements.
Chan feels that the Malaysian dating scene is a patriarchal one, and needs to be changed.
“Dating in Malaysia has always been patriarchal. Men always have a say, but rarely women. Except maybe a few who have adapted the views of the West, or maybe resided in the West or come from wealthy families.
“We want to change that. Our mission is to uplift women, by providing a platform for them to be able to choose freely without being judged. 60 per cent of people working behind Sugarbook are women. And we believe that women are entitled to the freedom of choice,” Chan told Malay Mail via email.
On the company’s policies on safeguards against participation from minors, Chan said that the app boasts of a feature named ‘Verify Your Profile’.
This requires aspiring members to submit their passport, identification card, utility bills and credit card details to be screened and verified.
“Once verified, Sugarbook will provide you with a blue check, as you see in other social media channels,” Chan added.
When asked about Sugarbook’s rules in policing exchanges for sexual favours, Chan replied: “We believe that whatever happens in between the conversations of two consenting adults, is not up to us to judge.”
He said Sugarbook is merely a social networking platform which abides by the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA) 2010, and the European Union’s (EU) General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) 2016/679 GDPR.
“As such, we do not encroach into the conversations of our members.
“We champion women empowerment and we do not endorse or condone any nudity, pornography, adult content nor any sort of sexual activities,” Chan said.
In a statement earlier this week, the Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) said that it has ordered Sugarbook’s billboard advertisements for the sugar daddy dating services in Bangsar and Bukit Kiara, to be removed.
City Hall said it did not approve the advertisement for the app on the billboard, which is owned by Yayasan Wilayah Persekutuan (YWP).
It added that YWP also did not give its permission for the display of the advertisement.
In response, Chan told Malay Mail that his company was ill-advised on the advertising procedures, adding that he was advised by the company’s advertisement publishing company that it had acquired the necessary approval.
Chan provided Malay Mail with a copy of what he said was approval from City Hall for his business content to be featured in public.
Since its launch in January 2017, the unorthodox dating site is no stranger to controversy.
In February last year, Sugarbook attracted the attention of Singapore’s Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee, who said the police will keep a close watch of the dating platform and its users.
Unlike Tinder that matches individuals based on common interests and geographical location, Sugarbook allows users to be a part of a social networking platform focusing on financials.
The start-up is looking to expand into China and Japan next and is seeking funding.