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April 20, 2011

Dating Sites: Should They Be Held Responsible?

Topics: General Health, News and Commentary

Following the filing of a suit against Match.com by a woman who claims that a date with a man she met through their service went horribly wrong and that she was raped, three primary questions have emerged: Are dating sites safe, should dating sites be responsible for checking for sex offenders, and when things go wrong should they be made to pay up?

From the Wall Street Journal:

You go on one of these dating sites, and meet a guy who seems alright. You meet up for a first date and have a good enough time. On the second date, however, things go horribly awry. The long and the short: he follows you home after the date and proceeds to sexually assault you.

Question: Do you have a valid cause of action against the dating site?

Although it now seems only logical and necessary that a dating site would be responsible for checking to see if a member is a sexual predator or has a criminal record, it's actually a big step forward in the world of online dating. As pointed out at PRWeb, two previous problems prevented this important safety procedure from happening: failings of the technology and the risk of bad PR:
In the past, the sex offender data quality and matching technology was too unreliable to trust. The chances of incorrect matching, either positive or negative, were far too high.

Perhaps due to the lack of accuracy, dating sites became afraid of the PR possibilities - and being called out for having sex offenders among their members, or incorrectly identifying members as sex offenders when they are not.

Now, companies such as MegansLaw.com provide extremely accurate, updated and complete sex offender data, as well as robust and rapid ways of matching membership databases. As such, many major dating sites have realized that the liability is likely far greater if they don't check for offenders.

To some, this is just common sense. The sex offender registry exists for a good reason, and people do not get placed on there without cause. To not use such valuable information in a logical and protective way, dating sites are risking a far greater liability. MegansLaw.com has been providing services to large social networks and provides a real time solution.

So with companies like MegansLaw.com now in existence, and with them extremely accurate, updated and complete sex offender data is readily available, it would seem that dating sites should indeed be responsible for checking members against sex offender and criminal record lists. And meeting people on sites that perform such checks is at least as safe as meeting strangers in person, and perhaps in some instances, safer. However,as suggested over at Pet Bird Interaction, the safety of dating online on dating sites really depends on the person looking for a date.
Many people who are up for mischief will usually want a quick relation and make fast moves to get them, so all you need to do is to not rush into anything and take each conversation slowly and think and get to know the person properly before committing to them. Also Google their name to find out any news available about them, this may seem as a sign of insecurity but its better than not knowing at all.
And, of course, you can always check at MegansLaw.com yourself.

As for whether or not a dating site should pay up when things go horribly wrong, for now that's up for a jury to decide. In the meanwhile it's a matter of opinion. What's yours?

Posted by Richard at April 20, 2011 7:13 AM

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