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Should Online Dating Sites Pre-Screen Members For Previous Sexual Offenses?

A woman is suing after she went on a date with a man she met on the site, who then followed her home and assaulted her. After the incident, a quick Google search revealed that the man had been convicted of several counts of sexual battery, prompting her to ask why aren't online dating sites pre-screening their members?


The woman, who spoke to GMA in complete darkness in hopes of remaining anonymous, says the man who assaulted her sounded completely normal and "like a nice guy" both in-person and online. Because of her experience, her civil suit against suggests the site run a person's name through a federal sex offender data bank off of the member's credit card when they first sign up. Her suit would also put a temporary restraining order for prospective, preventing new members from signing up until some kind of check is in place.

Advertisement's attorney responded to the suit by saying, "It's impossible for a company with a million subscribers and over 10 million members to do a thorough and complete background search on people." He continues, "Of course don't want to give a false sense of security." When it comes to the dating on the internet, is there ever a sense of security? Should online dating sites be held accountable for the decency of their members? If they become required to screen for previous sexual offenses, where does it end? Will they scan for previous crimes? Convictions? Parking tickets? It's a slippery slope.

Earlier: Woman Sues After Date Leads To Assault

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I am so terribly sorry for what happened to this woman, but I think there is a lot of confusion about what a background check entails, which is in part perpetrated by background chekc websites and other services with commercials that run on cable tv that imply that you can get a complete and comprehensive background check on a person for the low, low price of $49.99 or whatever.

Background checks are not simple, cheap or foolproof. It is relatively easy (but not free) to determine if someone has a federal conviction, if you're willing to sign up and pay the fees for access to the federal court system.

Most felons, however, are tried by the state (and offenses like drunk driving or indecent exposure may be on the municipal level). Different states have different levels of computer technology, access and fees. As do the court systems and judicial districts within those states. Some court systems do not have online records at all, and require you to go down in person to review their records. Sometimes you have to go to the department of corrections records to get information on convictions. All of this takes time, money and know-how.

Multiply it by 50 states and the criminal court districts therein, plus any aliases or mis-spellings or common names (such as John Smith, for example), and the cost and time requirement for a comprehensive background check would probably drive and a lot of other companies out of business, or cause their membership fees to skyrocket, which would have the same effect.