After a lawsuit successfully convinced the dating website Match.com to screen their users for sex offenders, several states are considering new pieces of legislation which would make online dating safer. Bills are pending in Connecticut and Texas which would provide dating site users with more information. Although these bills wouldn’t require that sites screen their users, as Match.com has decided to do, users would be reminded not to provide any identifying information on their profiles (in the Connecticut bill) and notified whether the site conducts background checks on new users (in the Texas bill).
Critics of the Match.com move have pointed out that screening may not be effective, since many rapists are not previously convicted sex offenders. In fact, they say, this may lull users into a false sense of security. Would the states’ proposed measures do any more to protect the people who use online dating sites from potential sexual assault? It’s a tricky question.
A Connecticut state representative says that users need to be reminded not to post too much information. “I’ve heard from a number of people who unfortunately met someone online,” he said, “they gave them too much information and were damaged financially as well.”
The Texas bill requires sites to remind consumers that background checks are not a fool-proof protection, and that they can still be circumvented by people who might want to harm them.
Others say that online dating site users need to be reminded that common sense is one of their most important tools. Blogger Alex Vasquez says that it’s impossible for online dating to be completely safe. “What if the guy had come out and decided to do something bad to me?” he said. “There’s no guarantees. As convenient as online dating has become, there are still issues with safety. … People just assume that it’s safe.”
To me, it seems better to give site users more information than screening them for sex offense histories. Whether it will work is another question. What do you think? Should states get involved in the struggle to make online dating safer?
Photo from Flickr.
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