This past week, several news outlets have republished a story that originated with ProPublica, the theme of which is that certain online dating applications are not screening for persons required to register as sex offenders and that users of those apps are somehow susceptible to sexual assault because of that.
Dallas-based Match Group, seems to have the market cornered when it comes to online dating. They own Match.com, but they also own many popular free sites, such as Plenty of Fish and Tinder. For the paid sites, such as Match, they perform identity and background checks, but for the free sites they can’t justify the cost, so they don’t. But is it really such a big deal now?
Dating websites have been around for a couple decades already and before that there were personal ads in magazines and newspapers. What’s also been around forever has been the inherent risk of meeting up with someone you don’t know under any circumstance. A decade ago we had the “Craigslist Killer” and a century ago we had the “Want Ad Killer”.
A spokesperson for Match pointed out that the 157 (reported cases of sexual assault) “need to be put in perspective with the tens of millions of people that have used [their] dating products.” The same study from which the 157 number was derived, found that “only a fraction of these cases involved a registered sex offender.” Even by the most conservative analysis of those statistics, the percentage would be less than 1/1000th of a percent that a person on the registry will sexually assault someone!
Sure, there’s a very small chance of being sexually assaulted on a dating website, but there’s also the risk of getting robbed or killed. It’s important to be careful when using dating apps, but it’s also important to be careful when meeting someone in a bar, or careful when driving a car. That doesn’t mean people should stop living normally. Realistically and statistically, it’s far more likely that you will meet the person of your dreams (or get “catfished”) on a dating website than anything too tragic happening, so stories like ProPublica’s are a bit absurd.