In the wake of a report by ProPublica, Buzzfeed, and Columbia Journalism Investigations on the failures of dating apps to screen for sex offenders, eleven members of Congress sent a letter to Match Group Inc. (the company that owns dating sites such as OkCupid, Tinder, PlentyOfFish, and Hinge) requesting that the company begin checking the names of users against sex offender registries. This letter came less than a month after reports that Match Group was taking steps to make dates safer, even acquiring a stake in an app that would track users and inform authorities of their location if they were feeling unsafe. This effort from Match Group seems to be part of an attempt to respond to the original report’s claim that the company left the onus on users to police for predators, instead of doing the legwork themselves by attempting to weed out offenders.
However, the members of Congress who wrote this letter are primarily raising issue with the company’s failure to check their dating app user base against sex offender registries.
“A review of the terms of service for Tinder, Hinge, Plenty Of Fish, and OkCupid shows that you already ask users to certify that they are not required to register as sex offenders. The failure to cross reference all user responses with sex offender registries is deeply concerning. While the names you check against registries will not be accurate in all circumstances, and this due diligence will not prevent all register sex offenders from using your platforms, it may disincentivize some dangerous individuals from using them and thereby provide a basic level of protection for users.”
It may be a bit naive to assume that the threat of cross-referencing names with sex offender registries will be enough to discourage offenders from signing up for dating apps, but as these members of Congress say, it certainly can’t hurt.
“Some states already have adopted laws to regulate online dating platforms. As Members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which is responsible for regulating interstate commerce and plays an important role protecting consumers, the decision your company takes to proactively conduct checks against Sex Offender Registries are important for informing our legislative efforts.”
To some, this paragraph could read as a warning.
Although the safety features that Match Group has announced so far sound promising, they are primarily focused on keeping users safe once they are already on dates, instead of weeding out predators before things even get that far. Match Group has yet to announce any plans to more thoroughly scrutinize the user base of any of these apps for sex offenders.
Read the original report in its entirety here.