The companies are activating their networks for political action, too.Earlier this year, Grindr users might remember seeing in-app notifications about targeted violence against gay men in Chechnya.

They appear to be reconceptualizing spaces that have historically been bulwarks against anti-gay bigotry; spaces where one can, at least to a degree, enjoy being in public without mainstream judgment.

Hornet, for instance, has been trying to combat the persistent stigma around HIV by providing its users with health facts through various public events and by educating them about HIV prevention.

These apps, on the one hand, still allow queer men the messiness of exploring our identities.

We can cruise furtively through rows of profiles, eking out a string of flirty chats or just going for some unembellished, anonymous sex.

Grindr, too, has been tapping its extensive user base for public health awareness campaigns.

In 2015, it conducted a survey with the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and Centers for Disease Control to gauge its users’ awareness of Pr EP (pre-exposure prophylaxis), a daily regimen that can protect users from contracting HIV.

The gay social-networking app Hornet, too, has been hosting live events.

Just this month, it put together a group of LGBTQ media gurus in New York for Loud & Proud, a sold-out panel discussion that centered around the importance of inclusion in a diversifying media world. Lots of queer men power up their gay app of choice when they go out or arrive in a new city in hopes of finding people who might be navigating similar life experiences.

Petersburg–based gay rights group, worked together at the height of the crackdown in April to distribute updates, as well as a hotline number and email addresses for aid and evacuation assistance, via the app.

It’s difficult to know whether the outreach had much impact on the ground.

The company also participated in a University of California, Los Angeles, study that showed using the app to push banner ads and notifications for free HIV home test kits was an effective way to reach high-risk populations.