States Consider Requiring Background Checks for Online Dating Sites
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Nearly a year ago, we reported that Herb Vest, the CEO of online dating site True.com, was stomping the state capitol hills, lobbying for states to require that online dating sites perform criminal background checks, or put a warning on their website indicating that they don’t perform criminal background checks.

Of course, Vest’s skin in the game was that at the time, True.com was touting itself as the only online dating forum that did routinely perform such background checks on its members.


To his credit, after we wrote that piece, Vest himself contacted the Internet Patrol, and offered to give us an exclusive interview. In that exclusive interview with True.com founder Herb Vest, he explained the reasoning behind his lobbying for a law requiring either background checks, or disclosure of the lack thereof on dating sites. Said Vest:

“The most important duty of government is to protect its citizens. One way government can protect the health and safety of its citizens is requiring companies to disclose limitations in their product or service. Government required disclosure is a common practice. From the tobacco industry to the food and drug industry, disclosure is a proven and effective method of communicating with consumers, particularly when health and safety is concerned.

In a time when people are meeting online and then meeting in person, our industry should be doing everything it can to increase the safety of our customers. Most importantly, our customers believe we are taking steps to ensure their safety. In a recent survey, ONE IN THREE online daters assumed that companies were ALREADY running criminal background screenings. I am willing to give up True’s primary differentiator in an attempt to save lives. That is why the Safer Online Dating Alliance (SODA) and I are pursuing legislation that will provide full disclosure to online dating customers and provide a wholesome and safer environment for courtship.”

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Interestingly, even with True’s background checks, some people slip through, and that’s something to keep in mind as we consider the events presently unfolding. Robert Wells, who was “convicted of lewd and lascivious acts with a child under 14”, managed to slip in below the radar of True’s background check, and post a profile on True. To their credit, when they found out, True not only removed Wells from the site, but is suing him for wire fraud.

Now, whether due to Vest’s stomping, or recent events such as the murder of Josie Phyllis Brown by MySpace date John Christopher Gaumer, and of Lori Leonard by Internet date Shawn Doyle, states are starting to sit up and take notice.

In fact, it has recently come to light that last year, in Michigan, state senator Alan Cropsey introduced “a bill to require online dating services to conduct criminal background checks or to provide certain notices; and to provide remedies.”

 

Under the proposed Michigan law, an online dating service which does not perform criminal background checks would be required to display in its home page, “not more than three inches from the top”, this disclaimer:

“WARNING: [NAME OF PROVIDER] HAS NOT CONDUCTED FELONY OR SEXUAL OFFENSE BACKGROUND CHECKS ON ITS MEMBERS.”

And if they do perform background checks, they still have to display a disclaimer, not more than three inches from the top of the website, saying:

“WARNING: BASED SOLELY ON THE NAME PROVIDED BY THE MEMBER, [NAME OF PROVIDER] HAS CONDUCTED A CRIMINAL BACKGROUND CHECK THROUGH CRIMINAL HISTORY RECORD SYSTEMS AVAILABLE TO THE PUBLIC AND MAINTAINED BY EACH OF THE 50 STATES AND THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA” (if they use a private investigation service the text is a bit different, but still much the same.)

A bit of a damned if you do, damned if you don’t kinda thing, eh?

And Florida is also considering a similar bill, requiring an online dating service to either perform criminal background checks, or note on the site that it does not provide such checks. If the online dating service does neither, then under the proposed Florida law it would be subject to penalties of up to $10,000 and attorneys fees, along with a court injunction against it. The Michigan law would allow for penalties of up to $500,000.

California and Texas are also considering similar legislation.

Here’s the thing. I understand the concern. I understand the sentiment.

But, hey, while we’re at it, let’s legislate that people who use online dating sites have to exercise some common sense and personal responsibility, eh?

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The Internet Patrol is and always has been free. We don't hide our articles behind a paywall, or restrict the number of articles you can read in a month if you don't give us money. That said, it does cost us money to run the site, so if something you read here was helpful or useful, won't you consider donating something to help keep the Internet Patrol free?
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5 thoughts on “States Consider Requiring Background Checks for Online Dating Sites
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  1. I think social networking sites are a waste of time when it comes to online dating. It seems like they attract a bunch of 20 somethings.

  2. You should do a background check on anyone you are considering dating if you haven’t known them very long, expecially if you met them online. Ask yourself these questions: “Are they married?”, “Have they been convicted of a sex crime?”, “Do they have a criminal history of any kind?”. These are all things you should know before you go on that first date. Knowing these things could save your life and/or your money.

  3. veridate.com allows its members to pre-screen themselves for potential partners. Similar to true.com but a Veridate member ID can be used across the spectrum of online dating and social networking sites.

  4. “people……have to exercise some common sense and personal responsibility” FULL STOP.

    Gee, I wish we could return to the “good old days”. LOL

    But, at least in Australia, that won’t happen as our politicians fall over themselves to educate the public not to think for themselves, but to rely on….the politicians!
    (Of course this doesn’t extend to the hard things, like full employment; just what counts, you know the feel good stuff that wins votes.)

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