Dating website Match.com is being sued by a woman who was raped after meeting with a man through Match.com. In response, the website has initiated a system to vet out sex offenders by checking registered users against sex offender registries.
Will this prevent sex offenders creating Match.com profiles? No. Will this prevent sex offenders from raping women they meet on the site? Of course not.
Is it necessary for Match.com to seek out and remove sex offenders? Of course it is. Even though there may be some false positives, even though it’s an imperfect system, it adds a layer of protection that will certainly vet out a bad apple or two, or thousands.
When someone subscribes to a dating site and begins the search for a mate, there is an implied assumption that Match.com has somehow validated other users. While that is definitely not the case, the reality is that new users are approved based on having a working credit card.
Going forward, sex offender registry checks will help, but anyone who meets dates online needs to realize that they are essentially on their own, and that no website can be with you on a date, protecting you from a sex offender.
Dating websites can try to prevent sex offenders from reregistering by recognizing and banning the email addresses or credit cards of unwanted users, but these are imperfect and less than effective security measures.
Dating websites could incorporate another layer of protection, such as vetting the computer used to create the profile in the first place. Device reputation management spots online evildoers in a fraction of a second, by examining the computer, smartphone, or tablet used to connect to the dating website or social network. If a device is associated with unwanted behavior, such as spam, online scams, fake profiles, bullying, or predatory behavior from a previous ban, the website can reject the new account or transaction.
Arguably, dating sites should not have to do any of this, but implementing new layers of security is the appropriate response to an unfortunate tragedy. Let’s hope dating sites get better at policing their members.