Tinder and similar sites may soon pre-screen for sex offenders, thanks to a letter from 11 members of Congress.
The letter followed a report from ProPublica, BuzzFeed, and Columbia Journalism Investigations, which found that many dating sites fail to screen their users. In the letter, members of Congress requested that Match Group Inc.—which owns a number of dating brands, including Tinder, OkCupid, Hinge, and PlentyOfFish—check user names against sex offender registries.
Reports have been coming out for several months, detailing how easily predators can work the system. Despite most sites requiring their users sign service agreements that promise they haven’t perpetrated “a felony or indictable offense (or crime of similar severity), a sex crime, or any crime involving violence,” they have no guarantee that users are telling the truth. Likewise, the promise that no users are “required to register as a sex offender with any state, federal or local sex offender registry,” has no actual verification.
The problem has been around for a long time, according to the report. Columbia Journalism Investigations examined 150 reports of sexual assault stemming from dating apps.
“In 10% of the incidents, dating platforms matched their users with someone who had been accused or convicted of sexual assault at least once,” the ProPublica report reads. In fact, only one of Match Group Inc’s sites—Match—currently screens users against registered sex offender lists. Only paid subscribers are privy to this practice, however. Free accounts, like all of Match Group Inc’s other sites, leave it to users to protect themselves. While many of the sites have reported multiple instances of matches with sex offenders, Match—thus far, at least—has none.
That indicates that Match’s screening process works. However, the lack of a uniform policy across all of Match Group Inc.’s 45 brands means that most users are being left behind. Thanks to Congress’ letter, however, this may soon change. The letter requests that all of Match Group Inc,’s brands follow the same practices that Match does.
“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 letter from Congress reads. “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 registered 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.”
Match Group Inc.has already taken several steps toward making its services safer for users. Less than a month ago, the company acquired an app that can track users and alert authorities if they ever feel unsafe. Combined with the steps Congress is requesting it takes, Match Group Inc.’s apps may soon be radically different.