Long before the explosion of internet dating sites, USENET newsgroups had long been a home of “single and looking” individuals that had been looking for a love connection on their dial up connection. The hit or miss ratio not only depended on compatibility, but on the integrity of those involved. As the online dating world has matured, the challenges of telling the difference between Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde still remain.
We all know that the online world is populated with every walk of life: the types that you’d want to meet and possibly date, the type that you should avoid at all costs, and everything in between. But how can you tell the two apart, especially when you find them on online dating sites like Match.com, where everyone wants to portray a favorable image?
On USENET newsgroups, a popular method had been to have your profile “verified” by other subscribers that may have known the individual to be sure they were even the same sex that they had claimed. However, to know further details, it was still left to chance. However, now the tides may be turning.
Match.com will start screening its users against the sex offender’s database to protect its customers. The popular online dating site says that improved screening technology has changed its opinion on the efficacy of screening customers.
The website announced the decision after a woman filed a lawsuit last week against the company, saying she had been raped by someone she met through the dating service. The woman said that if screening had been in place, the alleged rape last year would not have happened. On their second date, the lawsuit charged, the man brought the woman back to her house – and forced her to perform a sexual act. The victim claimed a simple background check would have exposed the man’s past, which her lawyer said included a history of violence and sexual assault.
According to the site, the change of policy was not forced by the lawsuit, but that the incident sped up an existing plan. The company has been considering the idea for several years but feared the screening process was too unreliable.
As some newsgroup subscribers are quick to point out is that the search database isn’t perfect, and you shouldn’t rely on an “all clear” on the database for your personal safety. In that regard, they are right. Just like USENET, any online world is going to have duplications, omissions, and mistakes in it. A guy named “Smith” might have a bunch of false positives, or he might be the “John Smith” that committed that string of rapes you read about in the paper a few years ago.
The dating website has announced that it will start performing these background checks in about 2 to 3 months, but until then, and even with these checks in place, we recommend you be very careful of who you decide to meet, especially if you meet them online.
Just like the long traditions of dating online from the early days of USENET, the standard precautions are good ones. Meet in a public place, provide your own transportation, don’t add alcohol to the mix (or drugs), tell a friend where you are and when you’re expected home, don’t take your date back to your place until you know each other better.