The popularity of dating websites has increased in recent years due to their easy accessibility to users and the busyness of working professionals. We have all seen the dating websites’ commercials that virtually promise that your true love is only a mouse-click away. The couples appear to be in love while kissing and holding hands. Apparently, this loving relationship would not have come about but for the genius of sites such as Zoosk.com, eHarmony.com, and Match.com. One woman in California, however, did not find love on Match.com. Instead, she found an alleged sexual predator.

This woman, only identified in court documents as Jane Doe, filed suit on Wednesday, April 13, 2011, alleging that a man she met through Match.com sexually assaulted her. The basis for her suit is that the popular dating website should have conducted background checks for all its members. If it had, the website and Jane Doe would have known that the alleged perpetrator was charged in a separate case with two felony sexual assault counts. According to the alleged perpetrator’s attorney, the sexual encounter was mutual.

Jane Doe’s lawsuit asks the court to grant a temporary injunction that bars Match.com from signing up more members until the site agrees to screen for sexual predators. Robert Platt, Match.com’s attorney, argues that screening for sexual predators will require obtaining the members’ social security numbers. The cost of the background check will, of course, be passed on to the consumers.

But, isn’t this a cost that most members will be willing to pay? Twenty or thirty dollars is not a lot of money to have peace of mind when going out on a date with a complete stranger. If the dating websites do not want to mandate a criminal background check for all members, they should have a “platinum” or most coveted level for members who agree to be screened for a criminal record. That way, members who want to have a greater level of protection when choosing their dates can have it.

Platt also stated, “There is a provision on the website saying that they’re not liable for this, and it lets people know that they’re not providing this service and people use it at their own risk.” Match.com and these other dating sites can provide better services to their millions of customers by at least offering the option of a background check. Since so many people use these sites to find their “true love” and criminal histories are not screened, Jane Doe’s lawsuit, unfortunately, will probably not be the last of its kind.

~Yoshana B. Jones

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