Feature

Should Match.com screen for sexual predators?

A woman says a man she met on Match.com sexually assaulted her — and now she's demanding that it check its members' names against the sex offender registry

A Los Angeles woman claims she was sexually assaulted by a man she met on the popular dating site, Match.com, and she's taking legal action. After a pleasant first date at a coffee shop led to a second date, he allegedly followed her home and forced himself on her. The woman subsequently learned that he had already been convicted on several counts of sexual battery and filed a lawsuit against Match.com, but she's not looking for money. She wants Match.com to check their members' names against sex offender records. Should they?

No, it's a slippery slope: While this is "a horrific story," screening out sex offenders on dating sites isn't the answer, says Tracy Clark-Flory at Salon. First off, sex offender records only tell you so much, and "we already make it hard enough for offenders to reenter society." Secondly, "why limit the background checks to sex crimes?" This would open up the question of what else dating sites should screen for: Past DUIs? Actual singlehood? "If the courts have any relevance here, it should be to address why a man with six convictions for sexual battery was roaming free as a bird."
"Why Match.com shouldn't screen members"

This is a tricky issue: I "really can see this both ways," says Ashby Jones in The Wall Street Journal. "On the one hand, it wouldn't be hard for a site to do a quick screening on its members to rule out any obvious potential problems." But, Match.com does supply member with safety tips, and dating sites are essentially virtual pickup bars, sans alcohol. "You wouldn’t expect a bar to do background checks on all of its patrons, so why would you demand the same of a dating site?"
"A date goes horribly wrong: Should dating site pay up?"

It wouldn't solve the problem, but it might help a little: If the woman had met the alleged rapist at a bar, says Anna North at Jezebel, no, we wouldn't hold the bar responsible. But, unlike a bar, "Match.com exists solely to helping single people meet, and so it has a commercial if not a legal interest in allowing them to do so safely." Screening members against the sex offender registry might help limit the risks for women. "And making dating that much more secure for women would likely be good for Match's bottom line."
"Woman sues Match.com after date leads to assault"

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