Women are reporting matching with sexual predators on free dating apps, and it’s calling to question why platforms aren’t doing more to screen users.
According to BuzzFeed News, a survey by ProPublica and Columbia Journalism Investigations (CJI) reported that one-third of women were sexually assaulted by someone they met on an online dating app. Half of those women said they were raped.
Per the report, dating app conglomerate Match Group has been involved in almost all dating app-related sexual assaults. Match Group owns OkCupid, Tinder, Plenty of Fish, and Match.com, rakes in $1.7 billion annually, and boasts 9 million paid subscribers across its platforms.
Match Group apps have limited screening protocols to weed out users with a criminal history. The apps have terms of services, which require users to indicate that they haven’t committed serious, violent, or sex-related crimes and also confirm that they aren’t registered sex offenders, but there isn’t any way to tell if someone is lying when they check the “accept” box. In a statement to ProPublica, a Plenty of Fish spokesperson said the company “does not conduct criminal background or identity verification checks on its users or otherwise inquire into the background of its users,” which means violent offenders may very well be lurking in user searches.
Women like Susan Deveau have paid the price for lax screening standards. In late 2016, Deveau was raped by a man named Mike Papamechail who she met on Plenty of Fish. Per ProPublica, Papamechail was likely already on the sex offenders list when he was matched on the site with Duveau. The pair spoke on the phone, texted, and then eventually met up at his apartment multiple times. During their third meeting, Papamechail raped her.
A spokesperson for Match Group told CJI that its free apps simply do not collect enough information to users in order to conduct background checks.
“There are definitely registered sex offenders on our free products,” the representative said.
Match Group’s paid site Match.com, one of the internet’s longest-standing dating platforms, does screen for those with a criminal history. In a lawsuit brought against the company in 2011, a woman named Carole Markin sued Match after she was sexually assaulted by a man who she met on the site on their second date. Match responded to the suit by implementing more rigorous screening processes, including checking the information provided by paid subscribers to their state’s sexual offenders list.
Update 5:37pm CT, Dec. 2: When reached for comment by the Daily Dot, a spokesperson for Match Group refuted the claims of the BuzzFeed News report.
“We do not tolerate sex offenders on our site and the implication that we know about such offenders on our site and don’t fight to keep them off is as outrageous as it is false,” the spokesperson said. “We use a network of industry-leading tools, systems and processes and spend millions of dollars annually to prevent, monitor and remove bad actors—including registered sex offenders—from our apps.”
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H/T BuzzFeed News